Consumer Health Digest #07-13

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 27, 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.

Dubious "nutrition" activities questioned. Quackwatch has posted a report about how bogus tests are used to prescribe expensive dietary supplement and herbal products sold by Standard Process Laboratories of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The report, based on documents collected over a 35-year period, concludes:

Standard Process Laboratories products have been promoted with preposterous claims for more than 40 years. After the company and its founder were prosecuted for criminal misbranding, the claims gradually became less traceable to the company and now appear to come from independent sources. The products were—and still are—promoted for many conditions that are outside the legitimate scope of the practitioners (mainly chiropractors) who sell them. I advise people to avoid both the products and anyone who sells them. [Barrett S. The shady history of Royal Lee and Standard Process Laboratories. Quackwatch, March 29, 2007]

Leading "NICO" proponent gets five years' probation. Wesley R. Shankland, II, D.D.S., who operates the Central Ohio Center for Facial Pain in Columbus, Ohio, has settled charges against him by entering into a consent agreement under which (a) his dental license will be suspended for six months; (b) he must complete 300 hours of continuing dental education that includes at least 40 hours in ethics, (c) he must not utilize any "alternative" dental or medical treatment without informing the patient that the procedure is nonstandard, (d) his ability to prescribe narcotics and psychiatric drugs will be restricted during 2008, and (e) his records must be available for review and monitoring by a physician or dentist who is experienced in the management of chronic pain. Shankland is a leading proponent of "neuralgia inducing cavitational osteonecrosis" ("NICO") and improperly advises that amalgam fillings and root-canal-treated teeth are problematic. The dental board's complaint not specify whether any of its concerns are related to these nonstandard theories and practices.

Shankland publicly represents himself as having earned a masters degree in human anatomy from Ohio State University in 1994 and Ph.D. in human anatomy in 1997. His Web site and various other publications do not indicate where he obtained the "Ph.D." However, a curriculum vitae filed in a recent court case identifies the source as "Summit University of Louisiana." This entity, a correspondence school that operated from about 1993 through 2000, was never accredited, had no legal or academic standing, and certainly did not require the amount of knowledge and effort that reputable universities require for doctoral degrees. A 1999 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education described Summit as a "diploma mill" located in a "converted bedroom" in a small house on the outskirts of New Orleans. ]Selingo J. Louisiana tries to close loopholes that allow suspected diploma mills to thrive. Chronicle of Higher Education, May 14, 1999, p A40]

Intercessory prayer research blasted. Medscape General Medicine has published a brilliant commentary calling for an end to wasting scarce research dollars on studies of remote prayer. Its key points include:

[Gaudia G. About intercessory prayer: The scientific study of miracles. Medscape General Medicine. March 20, 2007]

Arkansas rejects antivaccination bill. The Arkansas Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor has rejected SB911, which would have lowered the amount of mercury in the vaccines for children under 8 and for pregnant women by August 1, 2008. It was introduced by a Senator who apparently believes that the tiny amount of thimerosal (a preservative that contains mercury) in flu vaccine might trigger autism or other neurologic disorders. Several health care professionals testified at a hearing that there is no proven health hazard and said the bill would discourage some people from receiving vaccinations that can be life-saving. [Lyon J. Committee rejects bill to reduce mercury in vaccinations. Arkansas News Bureau, March 27, 2007]

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This page was posted on March 28, 2007.