Consumer Health Digest #08-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 20, 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.

"Chiropractic pediatrics" leaders disciplined for improper billing. Stuart Warner, D.C. and his wife Theresa Warner, D.C. have agreed to the terms of uniform penalty letters under which the New Jersey Board of Chiropractors charged them with rendering bills that "represented multiple charges for the same chiropractic services" to three children of the same family. The board uses such letters to offer settlements in response to complaints that are valid on their face. Their agreements required payment of a penalty ($3,000 for Stuart, $2,000 for Theresa) plus $1,591.50 each to the state for costs and $25 per incorrect billing to either the patient's parents or their insurance company. The Warners operate a subluxation-based clinic in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, at which about 60% of the patients are less than 7 years old. They also run a "pediatric chiropractic" practice-management program called Future Perfect. Stuart's agreement also required him to stop "engaging in unprofessional dialog with parents of minor patients that is intended to undermine the relationships they have with other health care providers." This pertained to the strategies he advocated in an article he wrote entitled "Top 7 Strategies to Shift Credibility from the Pediatrician to the Chiropractor," which had been posted on the Future Perfect Web site. Chirobase has posted an analysis of these strategies. Subluxation-based practitioners assert that spinal "misalignments" are the underlying cause of ill health and that periodic spinal adjustments will correct them and promote general health. Such "subluxations" are nebulous and have not been scientifically defined or demonstrated. [Barrett S. Chiropractic's elusive buzzword. Chirobase, May 23, 2006]

FTC concerned about anti-competitive generic drug deals. The FTC has published a summary of settlements between drug companies with unexpired patents and manufacturers who want to market generic versions of drugs with soon-to-expire patents. Federal law requires drug companies to file certain agreements with the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice. In fiscal year 2007, 14 of 33 (42%) final settlements included both compensation to the generic drug manufacturer and restriction of its ability to market the product. The majority of these settlements involved payment for delaying production and marketing of the generic. [Agreements filed with the Federal Trade Commission under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003: Summary of agreements filed in Fiscal Year 2007. FTC Bureau of Competition, May 2008] These settlements are bad for consumers because they undermine competition and prevent drugs from becoming more affordable. FTC commissioners have expressed concern about this, but the agency has not yet tried to ban them. Generic drugs almost always cost less than their brand-name counterparts, which often come down in price in order to remain competitive.

Deep-discount generic drug programs proliferating. During the past two years, at least least five chain superstores—KMart, Kroger, Shoprite, Target, and Wal-Mart—have begun selling hundreds of generics for $10 to $15 for a 90-day supply. One striking example is the cholesterol-lowering drug simvistatin, for which most pharmacies charge over $75 for the generic version and $400 for the brand name (Zocor). Note: Generics are legally required to be bioequivalent to their brand-name counterparts. However, when laboratory testing of the patient is used to monitor a drug's effectiveness, it may be prudent to do extra testing when switching from one manufacturer to another.

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This page was posted on May 21, 2008.