Consumer Health Digest #08-36
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 2, 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.
Outstanding antiquackery book published. Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of complementary medicine, and science writer Simon Singh have produced Trick or Treatment, a remarkable book that discusses "alternative medicine" practices. For many years, Ernst has been reluctant to dismiss methods that are unsubstantiated and implausible until studies actually demonstrate that they do not work. This book, however, expresses great skepticism. It concludes:
- While there is tentative evidence that acupuncture might be effective for some forms of pain relief and nausea, it fails to deliver any medical benefit in any other situations and its underlying concepts are meaningless.
- With respect to homeopathy, the evidence points towards a bogus industry that offers patients nothing more than a fantasy.
- Chiropractors, on the other hand, might compete with physiotherapists in terms of treating some back problems, but all their other claims are beyond belief and can carry a range of significant risks.
- Herbal medicine undoubtedly offers some interesting remedies, but they are significantly outnumbered by the unproven, disproven and downright dangerous herbal medicines on the market.
Quackwatch has posted a book review written by Harriet Hall, M.D.
Project Cure scrutinized. Quackwatch has posted an investigative report on Project Cure, an alleged charity which has been collecting $5 to $6 million a year. Its solicitations have suggested that contributions will be used in the fight against cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other major health problems. However, its financial reports indicates that (a) it does not sponsor research, (b) its "educational" programs are unreliable, and (c) most of the money it collects winds up in the hands of professional fundraisers. [Barrett S. Be wary of Project Cure. Quackwatch, Sept 1, 2008] Note: Do not confuse the organization described below with the Colorado-based Project C.U.R.E., (Commission on Urgent Relief & Equipment), a highly respected distributor of medical supplies and services, or Project Cure, Inc., a drug treatment facility in Ohio.
Another study blasts alleged vaccine-autism link. A case-control study of children with gastrointestinal disturbances has found no difference between autistic and non-autistic children who had received MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccinations. The researchers looked for and found no evidence that measles virus was lingering in the children's intestines. At least 20 epidemiologic studies have found no temporal relationship between MMR administration and the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms or autism. [Hornig H and others. Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: A case-control study. PLoS ONE 3(9): e3140. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003140]
Bogus device debunked. Device Watch has posted a report on electro interstitial scanning, a procedure claimed to provide large amounts of information about possible health problems. [Barrett S. Electro interstitial scans: Another device to avoid. Device Watch, Sept 3, 2008] The scanning device has been marketed in the United States for about a year despite lack of FDA clearance. It is one of several dozen that work by applying a low-voltage current at various points on the skin, measuring the drop in voltage elsewhere on the skin, and interpreting the alleged significance of the drop with a meter or computer program. The FDA has cleared a few such devices for marketing as biofeedback devices, even though they are used for unapproved diagnostic purposes. After the Seattle Times published a lengthy exposé [Willmsen, Berens MJ. Miracle machines: 21st century snake oil. Seattle Times. Nov 2007], the FDA banned importation of one such device and the House Committee on Energy & Commerce urged the FDA Commissioner to do more.
This page was revised on September 5, 2008.