Consumer Health Digest #05-48
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 29, 2005
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
California charter school stops advocating medical qigong. The International School of Monterey is no longer permitted to conduct qigong exercises or advocate the use medical qigong to its students. Qigong is based on the metaphysical notion that health can be improved by manipulating a "life force (Qi or Chi)" through various means. It had been taught weekly in some classrooms for three years by "Dr. Eric W. Shaffer, DMQ (China)," whose son is a student at the school. Shaffer, who identifies himself as a "Doctor of Medical Qigong," gives courses to the general public but is not licensed as a public school teacher or health practitioner. According to an ad he placed in a school yearbook, his classroom objectives were to "reduce stress and increase clarity and focus," "regulate the smooth, harmonious circulation of the body's energy," "increase mind/body integration, intuition and imagination," and "promote loving kindness toward self and others." A Web site that advertises his work states: "Medical Qigong is energy training and treatment with a specific medical application" and its "personalized self-care exercises . . . are used for self-healing, to relieve stress . . . and to increase longevity." The school's director has said that the purpose of Shaffer's activity was to "facilitate relaxation and stress-reduction" and that some classes performed Qigong stretching and breathing techniques daily. However, children reported being taught, for example, that by raising their arms, they could take energy from the earth and store it in their liver, kidney, and other organs. Some parents have expressed concern that the Qigong is unscientific, unproven, and possibly dangerous, and that they were not informed about and did not consent to their children's participation. After the school board held a hearing, it ordered the practice to stop but did not order the school to provide parents or students with critical information about what had happened. Concerned parents have launched a petition drive that asks government agencies to stop the school's funding until it:
- Fully discloses to parents what the children were taught, including all lesson plans, tapes, and other relevant materials.
- Discloses all internal documentation about "qigong" and how "medical qigong" became part of its curriculum.
- Presents to all students the scientific view of Qigong and the non-existence of "Chi."
Texas attacks dubious health "discount card" plans. The Texas Attorney General has charged four Texas-based companies with falsely promising significant savings on medical bills by offering fraudulent health “discount card” plans to people who need of health insurance. The companies are International Association of Benefits (IAB) of Richardson, Care Entrée of Grand Prairie, and Family Health and Family Care/NAPP, both of Houston. According to the Attorney general's complaint:
- The companies offered a "discount card" that was falsely promised to lower the participating member’s medical expenses by up to 80%.
- The companies claimed that thousands of health care providers participated in the plans, but many of those providers refused to honor the “discount cards” and some indicated they had never heard of the plans.
- Consumers were also misled into believing they were purchasing health insurance coverage, although neither of the companies is an insurer.
- The companies did not honor their money-back guarantee for those who decided to drop the program within the specified time for dropping out.
[Attorney General Abbott sues two fraudulent North Texas health discount card companies. News release, April 28, 2005 and Attorney General Abbott sues two fraudulent Houston health discount card companies. News release, May 2, 2005]
Texas disciplines chelationist. Dorothy Merritt, M.D., who operates Southwest Wellness Solutions (a chain of clinics formerly called Chelation Centers of Texas), has signed a consent agreement with the Texas Board of Medical Examiners under which she was assessed $3,000 and must retract misleading promotional statements she made in advertisements for chelation therapy and BioMeridian testing. The Agreed Order is posted on Chelation Watch.
Compounding pharmacists accused in hydrogen peroxide death. The Congaree Pharmacy of West Columbia, South Carolina, its owner (J.H. Phillips, Jr., R.Ph.) and a pharmacist/employee (George Dawn, R.Ph.) are co-defendants in a wrongful death suit brought by the survivors of Katherine Ann Kurtz-Bibeau, a 53-year-old Minnesota woman who died in March 2004 after undergoing intravenous hydrogen peroxide treatment for multiple sclerosis. The treatment was administered by co-defendant James M. Shortt, M.D., whose license was suspended in 2005 in connection with the woman's death and his alleged mistreatment of two other patients. In October 2005, plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment against Phillips and Dawn. Documents in the case indicate that they lacked FDA approval to prepare the drugs and dispensed them without a written prescription. [Barrett S. Compounding pharmacists accused in alleged death from intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Pharmwatch, Nov 26, 2005]
This page was posted on November 29, 2005.