Consumer Health Digest #09-01

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 1, 2009

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.

Medical Letter raps quack devices. The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics has expressed concern about four types of low-voltage "electrodiagnostic" devices claimed to diagnose and/or treat a wide variety of health problems. The report advises doctors to tell their patients that the devices used for electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV), radionics, QXCI/EPFX/SCIO/Life System treatment, and electro interstitial scanning "lack a scientifically plausible rationale and should be regarded as bogus." [Low-voltage electrodiagnostic devices. Medical Letter 50:95-96, 2008]

Pediatrics editorial blasts "Dr. Bob" Sears. Two staff members of the Vaccine Education Center (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) have issued a stinging rebuke of Robert Sears, M.D., author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. The editorial abstract notes:

Sears' book is enormously popular, having sold >40000 copies. At the back of the book, Sears includes "Dr Bob's Alternative Vaccine Schedule," a formula by which parents can delay, withhold, separate, or space out vaccines. Pediatricians now confront many parents who insist that their children receive vaccines according to Sears' schedule, rather than that recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. This article examines the reasons for the popularity of Sears' book, deconstructs the logic and rationale behind its recommendations, and describes how Sears' misrepresentation of vaccine science misinforms parents trying to make the right decisions for their children.

Sears's Web site states that he "has a particular passion for helping parents understand childhood vaccines and the options open to them in choosing the safest possible vaccine schedule for their child." The editorial points out, however, that "spacing out" the shots will increase the time during which children are susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. [Offit P, Moser CA. The problem with Dr Bob's alternative vaccine schedule. Pediatrics, Jan 2009]

AAP issues irresponsible "CAM" report. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published a lengthy report that describes "complementary and alternative" methods but deliberately avoids criticizing them. [Kemper KJ and others. The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pediatrics. Pediatrics 122:1374-1386, 2008] The report, issued by AAP's Task Force on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, concludes:

Maintain current knowledge of popular complementary therapies and evidence-based resources about them. Become familiar with the definitions, terms, and uses of CAM and learn about specific CAM therapies patients are using. Pediatricians are encouraged to educate themselves about the modalities and professionals that are available in their practice area. Provide evidence-based information about relevant therapies, available from the NCCAM, the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine member institutions, and an increasing number of publications in peer-reviewed publications and professional review articles.

Instead of providing real guidance, however, the report (a) parrots superficial descriptive information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (b) fails to note that most "CAM" methods are unsubstantiated and lack a scientifically plausible rationale, (c) fails to identify sources of appropriately critical information, and (d) states that, when talking with parents, it is "commonsense" for pediatricians to "tolerate" CAM methods that are ineffective but "safe."

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This page was posted on January 1, 2009.