Consumer Health Digest #09-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 22, 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.

Bachynsky gets 14-year sentence. Nicholas Bachynsky, M.D. has been sentenced to 14 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Last year a jury convicted him of one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud. The Court ordered restitution in the amount of $5,509,364.70, and the forfeiture of $450,000 in U.S. currency and two Swiss bank accounts. Bachynsky’s conviction arose out of the marketing of stock and notes for Helvetia Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was launched in early 2001 to administer and develop a worthless cancer treatment called intracellular hyperthermia therapy (ICHT). During the trial, the government proved that Helvetia's sales materials failed to disclose that (a) ICHT is extremely dangerous, (b) Bachynsky's medical licenses had been revoked, and (c) he had previously been imprisoned for insurance fraud. Three co-defendants in the case—Arthur Scheinert, Laurence Dean, and Richard Anders— all pled guilty. Anders received a ten-year sentence, and Scheinert and Dean received 5-year sentences. Quackwatch has a detailed report on Bachynsky's history.

Behavioral vision therapy evaluated. The UK's College of Optometrists has evaluated ten types of controversial programs claimed to improve visual, mental, neurological, and behavioral problems: (a) vision therapy for accommodation/convergence disorders; (b) vision therapy for dyslexia and other forms of academic underachievement; (c) prisms for near binocular disorders and for producing postural change; (d) near point stress and low-plus prescriptions; (e) use of low-plus lenses for close work to slow the progression of myopia; (f) exercises to reduce myopia; (g) behavioral approaches to treating strabismus and amblyopia; (h) training central and peripheral awareness and syntonics; (i) sports vision therapy; and (j) neurorehabilitation after trauma/stroke. [Barrett BT. A critical evaluation of the evidence supporting the practice of behavioural vision therapy. Ophthalmic & Physiologic Optics 29: 4–25, 2009] The reviewers concluded:

There is a continued paucity of controlled trials in the literature to support behavioural optometry approaches. Although there are areas where the available evidence is consistent with claims made by behavioural optometrists (most notably in relation to the treatment of convergence insufficiency, the use of yoked prisms in neurological patients, and in vision rehabilitation after brain disease/injury), a large majority of behavioural management approaches are not evidence-based, and thus cannot be advocated.

Power Brain Fitness program critiqued. Quackwatch has expressed skepticism about Power Brain Fitness, a program of mental and physical exercises claimed to "improve brain performance now & prevent dementia later." The program is based on the experiences of its developer, Linda Schaumleffel, a former Olympic athlete who claims to have rehabilitated herself following a severe auto accident. [Barrett S. A skeptical look at Linda Schaumleffel's"Power Brain Fitness" program. Quackwatch, Jan 19, 2009]

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This page was posted on January 22, 2009.