Consumer Health Digest #08-01

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 1, 2008

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.

Seattle Times blasts device quackery. The Seattle Times is conducting a major investigation of device quackery and dubious credentials that so far has generated more than a dozen articles by Michael J. Berens and Christine Willmsen. Most of the articles can be accessed through a page titled Miracle machines: The 21st century snake oil. Its findings have included:

U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) has asked for a Congressional investigation of bogus institutional review boards (IRBs) that try to protect "alternative practitioners" from regulatory action by pretending they are doing legitimate research.

Court upholds licensing authorities in quack device case. The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that use of a bogus electrodiagnostic device had created an "unreasonable risk of harm." In 2004, the Washington Department of Health Medical Quality Assurance Commission concluded that Geoffrey S. Ames, M.D., who practices in Richland, Washington, had committed unprofessional conduct by using a LISTEN device to (incorrectly) diagnose a patient as having an "egg allergy." Such devices which provide readings based on the patient's skin resistance to a tiny electric current, are not FDA-approved for diagnosis and have no diagnostic value. The Commission ordered a 5-year license suspension that would be stayed provided that Ames (a) stops using the device, (b) undergoes quarterly practice reviews, and (c) pays a $5,000 fine. Ames appealed, but the courts have upheld the ruling.

New anti-quackery blog launched. Science-Based Medicine will explore issues and controversies in the relationship between science and health care. Its mission is to scientifically examine medical and health topics of interest to the public. This includes reviewing newly published studies, examining dubious products and claims, providing much-needed scientific balance to the often credulous health reporting, and exploring issues related to the regulation of scientific quality in medicine. The five primary authors will be Kimball Atwood, MD; David Gorski, MD, PhD; Harriet Hall, MD; Steven Novella, MD; and Wallace Sampson, MD.

Skeptical chiropractic discussion forum very active. Chirotalk: The Skeptical Chiropractic Discussion Forum, with more than 146,000 visitors during 2006 and 2007, has become one of the Internet's most active chiropractic discussion sites. Several medical doctors, physical therapists and attorneys contribute regularly, and several prominent chiropractors, including a chiropractic college president, have participated. The three most popular threads have been fundamental chiropractic beliefs, questionable chiropractic practices, and chiropractic's future (or lack of one). Chirotalk was founded by founded by Allen Botnick, whose article about why he quit chiropractic should be required reading for anyone contemplating a chiropractic career.

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