Consumer Health Digest #07-38

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 2, 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.

Review blasts homeopathic "provings." A comprehensive review of homeopathic "provings" published from 1945 to 1995 has concluded that these studies "were generally of low methodological quality." [Dantas E. A systematic review of the quality of homeopathic pathogenetic trials published from 1945 to 1995. Homeopathy 96:4-16, 2007] Homeopathy is based on the misguided notion that substances shown to cause symptoms when administered to healthy people can, if appropriately diluted, cure diseases that manifest the same symptoms. During the 19th century, homeopathy's founder and his early followers conducted "provings" in which they administered herbs, minerals, and other substances to healthy people, including themselves, and kept detailed records of what they observed. Later these records were compiled into reference books that are used to match a patient's symptoms with a "corresponding" homeopathic product. However, the accumulated data are meaningless because no control groups or other statistical safeguards were used to determine whether the symptoms were actually related to the administered substances. Homeopathy relies on provings because the vast majority of homeopathic products have never been tested for effectiveness. [Barrett S. Homeopathy: The ultimate fake. Quackwatch, Oct 4, 2007]

The current reviewers, who call provings one of homeopathy's "pillars," concluded that, "The central question of whether homeopathic medicines in high dilutions can provoke effects in healthy volunteers has not yet been definitively answered, because of methodological weaknesses of the reports." In other words, despite more than 200 years of supposed testing, the homeopathic community has failed to validate its basic method of remedy selection. The reviewers call for better designed provings to provide "results that can be trusted." However, because all of homeopathy's "pillars" are invalid, it would be more prudent to relegate them to quackery's dustbin.

Kansas battling over dubious injectables. A court battle has arisen over the use of phosphatidylcholine and sodium deoxycholate injections for the alleged purpose of eliminating of reducing local fat accumulations. Neither drug has been proven safe and effective for that purpose. In August, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts voted to consider such use as "dishonorable conduct" unless it is part of an FDA-sanctioned clinical trial under an Investigational New Drug Application. However, a chain of clinics that offer the injections (trade-named Lipodissolve) has obtained a court order blocking the ban until the Board goes through a public comment procedure. Wikipedia has more details about the controversy.

Bolens hit by large federal tax lien. Certified records from the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's Office indicate that Tim Bolen (real name Patrick T. Bolen) and his wife Jan owe more than $100,000 for unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest. In August, the Internal Revenue Service filed an $88,480 lien that included amounts for each year from 1994 through 2003. There are also California state tax liens totaling $11,495 for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 for Tim and a $1,912 California lien for 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 for Jan. During a 2006 deposition, he was asked whether he had filed any federal tax returns during the five previous years. He said he had, but when asked which ones, he became evasive. He also said that he had been charging his living expenses to his business. The Bolens do business as Jurimed, an entity whose stated purpose is to help "alternative" health practitioners faced with regulatory action, criminal prosecution, or other matters that threaten their ability to practice. The assistance typically involves spreading false or misleading information. Quackwatch has a detailed report about his activities.

Zeolite marketers ordered to stop illegal claims. The FDA has ordered Zeo Health Ltd to stop illegal claims for three zeolite-containing mineral products: Destroxin (cancer prevention and treatment), Esdifan (diarrhea) and Zeo (hangover preventive). The warning letter noted that the company's Web site made the violative claims in metatags as well as in product descriptions. The metatags (hidden code intended to attract the attention of search engines) included "cancer prevention," "toxin removal," and "Natural supplements that... are proven to inhibit cancerous tumor growth, and will even prevent hangovers.... Effective diarrhea cure." The FDA letter also ordered the company to stop falsely claiming that the form of zeolite it uses is "approved by the FDA as completely safe." [Baca JR. Warning letter to Zeo Health Ltd, June 29, 2007]

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This page was revised on October 5, 2007.