Consumer Health Digest #08-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 6, 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.

Whooping cough outbreak closes Waldorf school. Public health officials have ordered the The East Bay Waldorf School on El Sobrante, California, to temporarily close in response to an outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) among its students. The victims include at least 16 children, about half of whom were in kindergarten. Whooping cough is spread through the air by coughs or sneezes, or by other close personal contact. The disease can be fatal to infants and can last for months in children and adults. Press reports indicate that fewer than half the students at the school were immunized against whooping cough. Statewide, about 98% are immunized against it, but California law enables parents to opt out for various reasons. [Wetzel KS. Whooping cough outbreak closes El Sobrante school. Contra Costa Times, May 9, 2008] Waldorf schools are small, private campuses (about 800 throughout the world) whose teachings are based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (1865-1925), an Austrian mystic who claimed to be clairvoyant and founded the religion of Anthroposophy. Steiner opposed vaccination on grounds that it would interfere with "karmic destiny." [Rawlings R. Rudolf Steiner's quackery. Quackwatch, March 6, 2007] Low immunization rates at Waldorf schools have also been implicated in an outbreak of 259 cases of measles in Austria, Germany, and Norway. [Schmidt E and others. An ongoing multi-state outbreak of measles linked to non-immune Anthroposophic communities in Austria, Germany, Norway, March-April 2008. Eurosurveillance 13(16) April 17, 2008]

Chirobase answers 100th question. The Chirobase Web site, which invites questions from visitors, has posted its 100th question-and-answer column. Most of these columns reflect what commonly happens when chiropractors see patients. Chirobase provides a skeptical guide to chiropractic history, theories, and practices. With over 500 pages, the site ranks 4th out of 16 million when Google is searched for "chiropractic." Samuel Homola, D.C., author of Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides the question-and-answer columns.

Bachynsky convicted again. A federal jury has convicted Nicholas Bachynsky, M.D. of one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud. The jury also returned a supplemental verdict forfeiting Bachynsky’s interest in $450,000 in United States currency and two Swiss bank accounts. Bachynsky’s conviction arose out of the marketing of stock and notes for Helvetia Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was launched in early 2001 to administer and develop a worthless cancer treatment called intracellular hyperthermia therapy (ICHT). During the trial, the government proved that Helvetia's sales materials failed to disclose that ICHT is extremely dangerous and that Bachynsky's licenses had been revoked. [Defendant convicted of wire and securities fraud. USDOJ press release, May 6, 2008] Bachynsky's sentencing is set for September 5th. Three co-defendants in the case—Arthur Scheinert, Laurence Dean, and Richard Anders—have all pled guilty. Scheinert and Dean have received 5-year prison sentences. Anders is scheduled for sentencing next week. Quackwatch has a detailed report on Bachynsky's history.

Queensland will fluoridate. The state of Queensland has announced that it will join Australia's other states and territories in fluoridating its community drinking water. The $35 million project is expected to provide fluoridated water to 80% of Queensland's residents within two years and reach 90% by 2012. Currently, fewer than 5% have access to fluoridated public water. In 2007, the Australian government's National Health and Research Council released A Systematic Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation, a 188-page report which concluded that fluoridation is safe and beneficial.

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This page was revised on May 12, 2008.