Consumer Health Digest #08-39

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 23, 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.

Enrollment stopped in dubious chelation therapy study. Enrollment into the $30 million NIH-sponsored Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) has been suspended. The clinical trial, which began in 2003 and was scheduled for completion in 2009, is intended to test whether intravenous disodium EDTA is effective against coronary artery disease. In May, Medscape General Medicine published a lengthy report calling for the study's immediate termination because:

NIH has made no public announcement about the suspension, but an astute reporter learned that the federal Office for Human Research Protections had opened an investigation after concluding that a complaint by the Medscape article authors had merit. TACT's principal investigator, Gervasio Lamas, M.D., of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told the reporter that doctors who had been disciplined by state boards or have criminal records were asked to drop out. [Marchione M. Government probes chelation-heart disease study. Associated Press, Sept 25, 2008]

Earlier this year, after the FDA expressed safety concerns, the two companies that sold disodium EDTA in the United States stopped selling it, which means that it is no longer legally available in the United States. [Barrett S. FDA issues chelation therapy warning. Chelation Watch, Sept 26, 2008] Chelation Watch has additional details plus links to key documents.

PBS fundraisers draw complaints. PBS ombudsman Michael Getler has called attention to the fact that PBS broadcasts some programs that it neither produces nor endorses and that the outside origin of the programs may not be conspicuously disclosed. [Getler M. Caution: That program may not be from PBS. PBS Web site, May 15, 2008] Such programs have include fundraising specials that promote the questionable health theories and practices of Gary Null, Nicholas Perricone, M.D., and Daniel Amen M.D. Getler's column was written in response to recent complaints about programs that promoted Amen's claims related to curing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, "balancing the brain, " and preventing Alzheimer's disease.

FTC strengthens unwanted phone-call rules. The Federal Trade Commission has added several more requirements to its Telemarketing Sales Rule. The current rule bans the use of recorded messages unless the prospective customer has a previously established business relationship with the caller. The amended rule changes this in three ways.

During the public comment period that preceded the enactment of this rule, the FTC received thousands of complaints that that prerecorded sales calls are abusive invasions of consumer privacy. [Federal Trade Commission. The FTC's Do-Not-Call Registry now contains more than 150 million numbers. Telemarketing sales rule: Final rule amendments, 16 CFR Part 310. Federal Register 73:51164-51204, 2008]

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This page was revised on September 26, 2008.