Consumer Health Digest #08-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 4, 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.

Quack device manufacturer issues FDA-prompted "recall." In response to FDA pressure, Vibe Technologies of Greeley, Colorado has issued a Class I recall of the Vibrational Integrated Bio-photonic Energizer (VIBE) Machine Multi-Frequency Field Generator, a device marketed with far-fetched claims that it can improve health and cure a long list of serious diseases by correcting alleged problems with cell vibration. [Barrett S. QuantumPulse (V.I.B.E.) device marketed with far-fetched claims. Quackwatch, Nov 4, 2008] The recall notice stated that "Class I recalls are the most serious type of recall and involve situations in which there is a reasonable probability that use of the product will cause injury or death." (FDA action was triggered in part by the death of a patient who relied on the device rather than effective treatment.) All purchasers of the device were sent a certified letter stating that they should stop using or promoting the product as a medical device and to destroy any VIBE literature making medical claims. Class I recalls involving quack devices are rarely done. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the recall will actually benefit consumers because the device can still be marketed and used as long as claims that the FDA can detect are kept vague and do not explicitly promise to prevent or cure diseases. The company's Web site still has a practitioner directory. Some are licensed as health professionals; others are not. Some operate salons where the device is used to "mobilize toxins" and an "ionic foot bath" device is claimed to take the toxins out of the body.

Cancer quack loses medical license. The Georgia Composite Board of Medical Examiners has revoked the medical license of Todata R. Shanthaveerappa, M.D. (also known as T.R. Shantha, M.D.). For several years, Shantha operated a clinic in Stockbridge, Georgia under the names "Integrated Medical Specialists" and "Integrated Chemotherapy Specialists." The treatments he offered included dinitrophenol (DNP), Ukrain, and hyperbaric oxygen, none of which have any value against the conditions for which they were used. DNP is also extremely dangerous. In 2005, Shantha was indicted for allegedly misrepresenting the nature of his treatment on insurance claim forms, and the board summarily suspended his license.The suspension order also expressed concern that he had treated cancer patients inappropriately. In 2007, Shantha pled guilty to one count of health care fraud, agreed to pay a total of $650,000 in asset forfeiture plus restitution, and was sentenced to serve five years' probation followed by three years of supervised release. Quackwatch has additional information on DNP and Shantha.

B-vitamin supplements fails to decrease overall cancer incidence. The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study has found no effect on cancer incidence among women ages 40 or older who took daily supplements of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. The data involved 5,442 women health professionals who were at high risk for heart disease and received either the vitamins or a placebo for 7.3 years. The study was done primarily to evaluate heart-disease incidence, but other outcomes were tabulated. A decrease was noted among women age 65 and older. The authors thought this was worth further study, but noted that many subgroups were tabulated, subgroup analysis might make something appear significant due to chance alone. [Zhang SM and others. Effect of combined folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 on cancer risk in women. JAMA 300:2012-2021, 2008]

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This page was revised on November 7, 2008.