Consumer Health Digest #09-05

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 29, 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.

Autism scaremongers blasted. Alison Singer, senior vice president of communications and strategy of Autism Speaks, has resigned because of the group's position that vaccination could be a cause of autism. Singer belongs to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the U.S. government agency for formulating strategy for tackling autism. Earlier this month, the IACC voted against committing money for two more autism/vaccine studies. By voting the majority, Singer clashed with Autism Speaks' policy and decided to resign. In a recent interview, she noted that many scientific studies have disproved the link first suggested in 1998 and that Autism Speaks should let go of that idea. She also criticized actress Jenny McCarthy, who claims that her six-year-old son has "recovered" from autism that she attributes to vaccination. "We need to listen to experts and not to actresses," Singer said. "There's too much attention paid to people like Jenny McCarthy, who is not a doctor. When you listen to her, she doesn't speak in facts." [Luscombe R. Charity chief quits over autism row. British Guardian, Jan 25, 2009] Founded in 2005, Autism Speaks is the world's largest charitable organization that targets autism. Its reported gross income for 2007 was $44 million.

Australian board attacks chiropractic quackery. The Chiropractors Registration Board of Victoria has proposed chiropractic standards that attack core beliefs and practices of subluxation-based chiropractic. The draft document, which is intended to apply to children up to the age of about 13, states that "Non-indicated, unreliable and invalid diagnostic tools, instruments or methods and unnecessary diagnostic imaging procedures are to be avoided." It specifies:

"Type O" stands for organic/visceral disorders (diseases) as opposed to "type M" (musculoskeletal/biomechanical disorders). SEMG and thermography have no legitimate diagnostic value, but many subluxation-based chiropractors use them to sell patients long courses of unnecessary treatment.

Dentists nix tobacco company "educational materials." The American Dental Association (ADA)'s House of Delegates has passed a resolution urging dentists and health organizations to avoid providing patients and consumers with information or materials developed by tobacco companies or other groups aligned with them. The resolution also urged the ADA not to accept advertising from such sources in any of its official publications. [Crozier S. ADA House eyes tobacco control legislation. ADA News, Nov 17, 2008] The resolution was stimulated by concerns expressed by a National Cancer Institute official that dentists were using the Philip Morris's QuitAssist program in their offices. Commenting on this action, an ADA official noted that posters, brochures and advertisements produced by tobacco manufacturers may create a false impression that these companies are acting socially responsible. Studies of tobacco company "smoking prevention" advertising have concluded that the youth-targeted ads did not benefit youths and that parent-targeted ads may have harmful consequences, especially among youths in grades 10 and 12. [Wakefield M and others. Effect of televised, tobacco company-funded smoking prevention advertising on youth smoking-related beliefs, intentions, and behavior. American Journal of Public Health 96:2154-2160, 2006]

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This page was revised on January 30, 2009.