Consumer Health Digest #08-05

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 29, 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.

Newsweek hits homeopathic quackery. Newsweek magazine has publicized the case of Mary Nedlouf, a terminal cancer patient who consulted Jarir Nakouzi, M.D. of Bridgeport, Connecticut. [Adler J. No way to treat the dying. Newsweek, Feb 4, 2008] Nakouzi's Web site describes him as "an expert in oncology" who practices internal medicine and homeopathy. His charges for 12 weeks of "treatment" totaled more than $41,000, which included about $8,500 for worthless "bioresonance therapy" and "quadrant analysis and balancing" with a bogus "electroacupuncture" device. Nedlouf's husband has filed a complaint against Nakouzi to the Connecticut Department of Health. Some of the prescribed products were obtained from a company that has been marketing products with illegal claims for more than 25 year. [Barrett S. Heel-BHI: The world's most outrageous homeopathic marketer. Homeowatch, Dec 3, 2007] The Newsweek report is unusual because quackery victims rarely report their experiences and mainstream media seldom criticize homeopathy.

NHS curtailing homeopathy. The medical newspaper Pulse has found that only 37% of 132 of the National Health Service's primary care trusts still have contracts for homeopathic services. Over the past two years, more than a quarter of the trusts have stopped or reduced funding, with many canceling contracts with homeopathic hospitals. Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, and a former homeopath himself, said he supported the cuts because homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo and "There can be no cost-effectiveness without effectiveness." [Praibes N. Homeopathy victim of funding cuts. Pulse, Jan 30, 2008]

Research-related quackery exposed. Quackwatch has posted an analysis of research-related frauds used to promote dubious products and services. The article discusses: (a) unsubstantiated advertising claims, (b) research enrollment used as a marketing tool, (c) questionable clinical trials, and (d) institutional review board (IRB) mischief. [Barrett S. "Research" associated with the promotion of questionable theories, products, and services. Quackwatch Jan 31, 2008]

FTC curbs bogus weight-loss claims for hoodia product. The marketers of “Slim Coffee”—an instant coffee product said to contain hoodia—have agreed to settle FTC charges that they falsely claimed that the product would enable its users to lose 2 to 5 pounds a week without reducing caloric intake or increasing physical activity. Under the proposed settlement, Diet Coffee, Inc. and its principals, David Stocknoff and David Attarian, based in New York City, are prohibited from falsely representing that any product or service causes weight loss, reduces or eliminates fat, reduces or curbs appetite, increases metabolism, or provides any other health-related benefit. The settlement contains a monetary judgment of $923,910, which is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgment will be imposed if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. [Sellers of hoodia coffee settle with FTC for bogus weight loss claims. FTC news release, Jan 15, 2008] Ads had invited users to "drink away the pounds" by merely substituting their product for their usual coffee.

Kidney transplant patient kills self with vitamin C. A 31-year-old Australian woman who had received a kidney transplant died soon afterward as a result of calcium oxalate deposits that destroyed her new kidney function. The problem was attributed to her taking 2 grams of vitamin C daily for three previous years while on dialysis. The doctors who reported the case said that excess vitamin C is usually excreted harmlessly in the urine, but in patients with kidney failure, it is retained and can combine with oxalate to form crystals that deposit in the kidney tubules. They also concluded that high-dose vitamin C therapy should be avoided in patients with kidney failure. [Nankivell BJ, Murali KM. Renal failure from vitamin C after transplantation. New England Journal of Medicine 358(4)e4, Jan 28, 2008] However, oxalate-induced kidney failure has been reported in people with no apparent kidney problem. Megadose vitamin C therapy should be avoided because it doesn't work.

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This page was posted on January 30, 2008.