Consumer Health Digest #09-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 5, 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.

Maryland board discourages long-term chiropractic contracts. Many chiropractors use long-term contracts with penalty clauses to discourage patients from stopping their treatments. Contracts for 50 to 100 treatments over a 1-year period are not unusual. The Maryland Board of Chiropractic Examiners has warned that such contracts are improper because treatment need cannot be predicted far in advance. The board's 2008 Chiropractic Practice Guide states:

A licensee is free to use whatever patient contract he/she desires provided that the contract is clear, fair, and may be terminated at any time for any reason, without penalty by the patient. If a contract unduly restricts a patient to commit for extended periods of treatment requiring penalties for termination, the contract is unconscionable and considered as unprofessional conduct by the Board. Licensees must carefully assess binding a patient to an extended care contract since parameters of care, patient health and patient desires change as time goes by. For example, a patient may simply not like the personality or treatment methods of the licensee. In such cases, the patient must have the free, unfettered and unobstructed right to terminate the patient care contract for any reason and at any time without penalty. The Board has received numerous complaints from patients regarding the unfair use of such contracts. For these reasons, the Board strongly advises licensees to refrain from the use of long-term, extended treatment contracts.

FTC sues "detox" foot pad marketers. The Federal Trade Commission has charged Yehuda (“Juda”) Levin, Baruch Levin, and their Xacta 3000 Inc. with deceptive advertising. According to the complaint, the defendants claimed that applying Kinoki Foot Pads to the soles of the feet at night would remove heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, chemicals, and cellulite from their bodies. The ads also claimed that use of the foot pads could treat depression, fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. [FTC charges marketers of Kinoki Foot Pads with deceptive advertising; seeks funds for consumer redress. FTC news release, Jan 28, 2009] When applied to the feet, foot pads darken, which marketers claim is evidence that toxins are being drawn out from the body. However, investigators have demonstrated that the darkening is caused by contact with moisture from any source and has nothing to do with "toxins." [Barrett S. The "detox" foot pad scam. Device Watch, Feb 5, 2009]

Many children taking vitamin supplements don't need them. An analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has found that (a) about a third of children ages 2 to 17 were taking vitamin or mineral supplements and (b) those with healthier nutrition, a more active lifestyle, greater food security, and greater health care access were more likely to take supplements. Other studies have had similar findings. [Shaikh U and others. Vitamin and mineral supplement use by children and adolescents in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 163:150-157, 2009] The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend supplement use by children and adolescents with varied and healthful diets. For those with inadequate diets, dietary improvement is usually a better strategy than supplementation. [Barrett S. Dietary supplements: Appropriate use. Quackwatch, Oct 17, 2006]

Health Canada's inaction severely criticized. CBC Marketplace has aired an investigative report about William Nelson and his EPFX/SCIO device, which supposedly introduces curative microcurrents into the body. Health Canada has licensed the device as a biofeedback device for stress reduction and permits its marketing. But marketers of the device—including Nelson himself—say the device can cure cancer, Alzheimer's disease and a long list of other problems. [Health makers or money takers? Why are Canadians hanging their hopes on this machine? Canadian Broadcasting Company, Jan 30, 2009] Several years ago, Nelson fled to Hungary from the United States to escape prosecution for mail fraud. The CBC broadcast showed Nelson making grandiose claims, but a biomedical engineer who measured the current emitted by the device said the current flow (5 millivolts) is too low to have any effect on the body. The TV producer wanted Health Canada to explain why it permits the EPFX/SCIO to be sold as a medical device when it is actually used for other purposes. However, the agency refused an invitation for an interview. Quackwatch has a detailed report about Nelson and his device.

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This page was posted on February 5, 2009.