Consumer Health Digest #08-50

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 10, 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.

Bioesthetic dentistry examined. Dental Watch has examined the history and practice of "bioesthethic dentistry," an expensive treatment system based on an "ideal dental model" that most dentists do not accept. The methods includes "stabilizing the bite" with an orthotic device followed by extensive application of crowns and other restorations. Before-and-after pictures indicate that many patients improve their appearance. However, preparation for crowning requires removal of healthy tooth structure; and disturbing healthy, functional teeth may, in the long run, result in complications. [Barrett S, Baratz RS. Does "bioesthetic dentistry" provide good value? Dental Watch, Dec 8, 2008]

Chelation data released. Government researchers estimate that during 2007, 111,000 adults and 72,000 children under age 18 received chelation therapy. [Barnes PM and others. Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. National Health Statistics Reports Number 12, Dec 10, 2008] The number of children is worrisome because there is seldom a legitimate reason to chelate children. The survey report does not indicate why chelation was done, but many chelationists recommend it for autism and related disorders that they (falsely) claim are caused by exposure to mercury or other heavy metals.

Gonzalez study stopped. The $1.4 million NIH-sponsored clinical trial to test the dubious pancreatic cancer treatment offered by Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D. may have been stopped. Between 2002 and 2008, the HHS Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) warned officials at the Columbia University Health Sciences four times that the study had serious deficiencies. The government's clinical trials database reports the study as "ongoing but not recruiting patients." However, the most recent OHRP warning letter states that the study was "terminated" in 2005. The reason for the stoppage has not been publicly announced, but the reason might be that lack of benefit was apparent. [Atwood KA. The “Gonzalez trial” for pancreatic cancer: Outcome revealed. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Nov 28, 2008] Gonzalez's regimen is centered around the use of coffee enemas and about 150 supplement pills per day. For several years, Gonzalez trumpeted the study's existence as an endorsement of his credibility. However, the study is no longer mentioned on his site, which suggests that he is unhappy with the outcome. Neither NIH nor the Columbia researchers have revealed what the study showed. Since it was funded by tax dollars, the public is entitled to know what happened to the patients. If the researchers acted improperly, perhaps they should be ordered to refund the grant money.

"Defiant" doctor's license revoked. The Arizona Medical Board has revoked the medical license of John V. Dommisse, M.D., who practices what he calls "nutritional and metabolic medicine" in Tucson, Arizona. In 2006, the board placed him on probation and ordered him to modify his practices and to have his patient records periodically monitored. This year. in response to further complaints, the board held four days of hearings and concluded that he had acted unprofessionally by failing to maintain records that could justify his treatment of 16 patients. Many of the cases involved treating people for thyroid disease without substantiating the diagnosis or properly monitoring them with periodic lab tests and physican examinations. During one hearing, when queried about the fact that his charts contained no recorded physical examinations, he stated that "nuritional physicians" may rely on others to perform such examinations and that he had not performed one for about 41 years. The board also noted that the sole effect of its previous censure was to make him "more defiant and more committed to continue the practices that had previously been determined to be unprofessional conduct" and that he had "repeatedly demonstrated that he cannot be regulated." Dommisse's regulatory history is summarized on Casewatch.

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