Consumer Health Digest #08-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 5, 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.

Virginia licensing board reprimands chiropractor who used bogus muscle-testing. Eric Berg, D.C., who, operates The Health and Wellness Center in Alexandria, Virginia, has been reprimanded, fined $1,500, and ordered to stop using and promoting Body Response Technique (BRT), Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA), and testing with an Acoustic Cardiograph (ACG). BRT, NAET, and CRA involve bogus muscle tests that supposedly are related to body organs. The ACG is claimed to provide a "readable signature" of heart sounds" that is used to detect imbalances of body chemistry. The alleged problems are then corrected with dietary supplements. The consent agreement notes that Berg had made many therapeutic claims that were not supportable by reasonable scientific or medical evidence. Surveys have found that over 40% of chiropractors have used muscle testing in similar ways, most notably as part of a system called applied kinesiology. Berg, who represents himself as BRT's developer, says that he has trained more than 1,000 practitioners at his seminars.

Medical group trying to curb Texas Medical Board. The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS) is suing the Texas Medical Board and its individual members to end what it calls "persistent violations of constitutional rights" of its members. The lawsuit is part of a campaign against disciplinary actions and pending complaints against several of its Texas members. The board has asked the court to dismiss the AAPS suit for lack of jurisdiction, asserting that, unless a state consents, the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution precludes federal courts from considering suits brought by citizens of another state. Much of AAPS's activity is intended to protect members and/or patients from what AAPS regards as excessive government intrusion into medical care. Its targets include national health insurance, medical board regulation, and mandatory vaccination. It appears to have about 2,300 members.

TM founder dies. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who spread the teachings of transcendental meditation and a commercialized version of ayurvedic medicine throughout the world, has died, leaving behind a multi-million dollar empire. His age is estimated to have been between 90 and 97. TM is a technique in which the meditator sits with eyes closed and mentally repeats a Sanskrit word or sound (mantra) for 15 to 20 minutes, twice a day. TM is alleged to help people think more clearly, improve their memory, recover from stressful situations, and enjoy life more fully. Deepak Chopra began promoting it after meeting the Maharishi during the mid-1980s. Both have made far-fetched claims that advanced meditators can levitate and that meditation by large groups can reduce crime and produce world peace. A 1991 National Research Council committee report concluded that people who meditate regularly may have a more restful lifestyle and that relaxation techniques might be appropriate for stress-reduction or as a component of other treatments. However, the committee found no scientific evidence that stress is reduced more effectively by meditation than by simple quiet resting or that meditation alone provides lasting benefits, such as reducing high blood pressure or other unhealthy responses to stress. [Bjork RA and others. In the Mind’s Eye. Enhancing Human Performance. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 1991, pp 120-133]

Medicare modifies chiropractic x-ray rules. Radiologists can no longer order x-rays for Medicare patients referred to them by chiropractors in a non-hospital setting. The 2008 Medicare Fee Schedule Final Rule, which took effect on January 8, 2008, eliminated the “chiropractor exception” that had allowed non-treating physicians to order tests to identify spinal "subluxations" at the request of a chiropractor. Before January 1, 2000, the law required that an x-ray confirm the presence of subluxations in order for Medicare to reimburse for their treatment. Because radiologists do not qualify under Medicare rules as treating physicians who can order x-rays, and because Medicare similarly restricts chiropractors from ordering x-rays, the regulations provided an exception wherein patients would be reimbursed if a radiologist took the x-rays at the request of a chiropractor. In 2000, the law eliminated the requirement that subluxations be demonstrated by x-rays in order for chiropractic services to be covered. The new policy aligns Medicare policies with the 2000 statutory change. The American Chiropractic Association argued that (a) x-rays are essential to the chiropractic treatment plan of Medicare patients and (b) permitting referrals to radiologists would reduce health care spending by enabling patients to avoid additional trips to their primary care provider. CMS disagreed, noting that x-rays are not needed to identify spinal subluxations. They can be appropriate to rule out other conditions where spinal manipulation is contraindicated, but this use was outside of the chiropractic exception.

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This page was revised on February 8, 2008.