Consumer Health Digest #06-35

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 29, 2007

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.

Prominent panel issues interim recommendations for health care reform. The Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, an independent nonpartisan panel authorized by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, has drafted recommendations on how to make America’s health care system work better:

The recommendations reflect input from more than 20,000 citizens who participated in more than 75 community meetings or provided their input online. The public has until August 31st to comment on the interim recommendations. Final recommendations will be sent at the end of September to the President and Congress for review. Five Congressional committees (Senate Finance; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension; Senate Energy and Commerce; House Ways and Means; House Education and Workforce) are expected to hold hearings. The Working Group's Web site has additional information and forms for submitting comments online.

High court agrees that subluxation-based chiropractor recommended excessive care. The Supreme Court of South Australia has upheld a decision by the Chiropractors Board of South Australia that George Michael Belle, who operates the Acacia Chiropractic Centre in Morphett Vale, had engaged in unprofessional conduct in his management of a patient who consulted him for back pain in 2002. The evidence showed that Belle had treated her back pain for three visits but proposed a long-term "corrective care" program of neck care that was inappropriate because it was "insufficiently tailored to her individual circumstances and the number of treatments proposed . . . was excessive." The judge concluded:

The effect of the Board’s finding is that the appellant was not so much concerned with treating Mrs Hill’s low back pain in three to six treatments as with promoting the corrective care plan to cure her postural curvature by a régime of treatments requiring 88 visits at a cost of $2,692. . . . The appellant’s conduct was clearly unprofessional. There is no basis for disturbing this finding of the Board.

The judge also upheld the Board's conclusion that Belle had acted unprofessionally by making disparaging remarks about orthopedists and physical therapists. Chirobase has additional information about the case and a link to the judge's ruling. Shortly before the ruling was issued, Belle failed in an attempt to get elected to the chiropractic board.

Herbal sleep aid found to contain prescription drug. Health Canada is advising consumers not to use Salt Spring Herbals' Sleep Well because a sample the agency analyzed was found to contain the prescription drug ingredient estazolam, a sedative that can be habit-forming when used for a few months.The most common side-effects associated with the use estazolam are dizziness and drowsiness. More serious side-effects include loss of memory, hallucinations, confusion, and depression. Because withdrawal symptoms are possible, people already taking the product should consult a health care professional about how to stop. [Health Canada advises consumers not to use dietary supplement due to potential health risks. News release, Aug 30, 2006] Before the trouble erupted, the company's Web site described the product as a natural herbal mixture that can relieve insomnia and restless leg syndrome. During 2005, the product was marketed as Sleep Ease with seven testimonials published on the site. After the name was changed, the same seven testimonials (plus three more) appeared with the product identified as Sleep Well.

New information disclosed in Shantha case. A government filing has revealed details of the investigation that triggered the indictment in December 2005 of Todata R. Shanthaveerappa, M.D. (also known as T.R. Shantha, M.D.) and Dan U. Bartoli, who are facing multiple charges health care fraud and distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs. For several years, Shantha operated a clinic in Stockbridge, Georgia under the names "Integrated Medical Specialists" and "Integrated Chemotherapy Specialists." Shantha was the clinic's medical director, and Bartoli was his medical assistant. Among other things, the indictment alleges that the pair treated cancer patients with dinitrophenol (DNP), Ukrain, and hyperbaric oxygen, none of which have any value against the conditions for which they were used. DNP is also extremely dangerous. The indictment also states that Shantha and Bartoli defrauded health insurance companies by submitting claims that disguised what treatments they were providing at the clinic. Shortly after Shantha was indicted, Georgia's medical board suspended his license. The suspension order also expressed concern that he had treated cancer patients inappropriately. In May 2006, the government filed a document that revealed some of the sordid ways that Shantha allegedly conducted his business and jeopardized patients by using DNP. Quackwatch has additional information on DNP and Shantha.

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This page was revised on August 30, 2006.