Consumer Health Digest #08-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 22, 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.

Study of chelation to treat autism suspended. The National Institutes of Health has canceled the clinical trial intended to examine whether DMSA, an oral chelating agent that removes mercury and other metals from the body, can help children with autism. Critics of the study have noted that no credible evidence exists that autism has a toxic basis or that autistic children harbor abnormal heavy metal levels. The cancellation was triggered by a study which found that rodents with normal lead levels suffered neurological damage after DMSA was administered. [Stokstad E. Stalled trial for autism highlights dilemma of alternative treatment. Science, July 18, 2008, p. 326]

California insurance companies agree to stop "post-claims underwriting." California's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has obtained settlement agreements under which California Physician's Service (d/b/a Blue Shield of California) and Anthem Blue Cross will pay administrative fines totaling $13 million and offer coverage to more than 2,200 Californians whom the companies dropped after they became ill. The insurers also agreed to establish a process for former members to recover out-of-pocket medical expenses and damages due to resultant financial difficulty. The DMHC had charged that the companies had canceled policies after policyholders had run up large medical bills. [Girion S. California fines two health plans $13 million. Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2008] Four other companies have made similar agreements within the past two years. To access the documents, use the DMHC's document content search for "post claims underwriting."

"Antiaging doctor" loses DEA appeal. A federal court of appeals has upheld the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's regulatory actions against Edmund Chein. In 2007, after documenting a long pattern of illegal conduct, the agency permanently revoked Chein's practitioner registration certificate and denied his application for permission to export these substances. The judge's memorandum states that Chein:

Chein, who operates the Palm Springs Life Extension Institute in Palm Springs, California, has also been disciplined by the Medical Board of California. In 2005 he agreed be on probation for five years, during which he must (a) pay $10,000 to the State of California for costs, (b) take courses in ethics, prescribing practices, and record-keeping, (c) refrain from making unsubstantiated advertising claims, and (d) either have his practice monitored or participate in an intensive professional enhancement program. Quackwatch has additional details and links to the relevant documents.

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This page was posted on July 25, 2008.