Consumer Health Digest #06-14

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 4, 2006

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.

Remote prayer fails to help cardiac bypass patients. A study of intercessory prayer has found no effect on complication-free recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery, but patients who were certain they would be prayed for had a higher incidence of complications. [Benson H and others. Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal 151:934-942, 2006] The study, which was supported by the John Templeton Foundation, included patients at six U.S. hospitals who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The prayers were provided for 14 days, starting the night before the operation, and the patients were monitored for complications for 30 days.

Major events and 30-day death rates were similar in all three groups. The slightly increased incidence of complications in Group 3 was probably due to chance and not to any anxiety associated with being told one was prayed for (as some press reports have speculated). This is the largest and best-designed study of remote prayer ever done. Two of the four previously published studies were claimed to have favorable findings, but one had a fatally flawed design and the other used untested outcome measures. The other two studies reported no benefit. Remote prayer studies are unlikely to accomplish anything because people's views on the subject are not usually influenced by contradictory data. [Barrett S. Some thoughts about faith healing. Quackwatch, April 5, 2006]

Temporary injunction issued against "See Clearly" marketers. The Iowa Attorney General has obtained a stipulated temporary injunction ordering Vision Improvement Technologies and four of its officer to make refunds readily available to buyers of the "See Clearly Method" who are dissatisfied. The product, which emphasizes eye exercises, is claimed to enable people to see more clearly; eliminate or reduce nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, poor vision due to aging and eyestrain; strengthen the eye muscles; eliminate or reduce the need for glasses and contacts; and prevent further deterioration of vision. In August 2005, the Iowa Attorney General also charged that the defendants had made false claims about the product's effectiveness. The trial related to these claims is scheduled in September. Quackwatch has further details and links to the suit documents.

Doctor indicted for bogus stem-cell scheme. Charlene C. DeMarco, D.O. and Elizabeth Lerner (a/k/a “Elizabeth Copperman”) of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey have been charged with defrauding patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS —"Lou Gehrig's disease"). The indictment describes how the families of two ALS patients paid $35,000 each for treatments that were never given. Both defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; mail fraud, wire fraud; and money laundering. DeMarco, who "specialized" in treating Lyme disease patients, is a member of the New Jersey Governor's Advisory Council on Lyme Disease. Lerner was represented as DeMarco's assistant even though she was not a health professional. According to the indictment, DeMarco told one family member that the treatment was FDA-approved, even though it was not. The indictment is posted on Casewatch.

Online journal notes chiropractic educational shortcomings. Chiropractic & Osteopathy has published an overview of chiropractic education that notes the following problems:

Chiropractic and Osteopathy, which began publishing in April 2005, is a peer-reviewed online journal that aims to provide chiropractors, osteopaths and related health professionals with clinically relevant, evidence-based information. Among chiropractic's journals, it is the most science-based and the most willing to examine what chiropractors do wrong. The full text of its articles is accessible free-of-charge, and its "open access" policy permits them to be reproduced elsewhere as long as its source is acknowledged.

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This page was posted on April 5, 2006.