Consumer Health Digest #09-08

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 19, 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.


Heavy metals test scheme laid bare. Quackwatch has taken a close look at how urine tests are used to trick people into thinking that they have lead or mercury poisoning and need "detoxification" with chelation therapy. The heart of the process is "provoked" testing in which a chelating agent is given before the specimen is obtained. This artificially raises the levels of heavy metals in the urine. The test report, a copy of which is given to the patient, states that its "reference values" are for non-provoked specimens. However, if a test level exceeds the reference values, it is reported as "elevated" even though it should be considered insignificant. [Barrett S. How "provoked" urine metal tests are used to mislead patients. Quackwatch, updated May 26, 2017]


Support grows for Dr. George Lundberg as Surgeon General. Many people believe that George D. Lundberg, M.D, Ph.D., is ideally qualified to be Surgeon General. Lundberg, an expert on medical ethics and the need for healthcare reform, edited the Journal of the American Medical Association for 17 years and the Medscape Journal of Medicine for 10 years. Coincident with his leaving the latter, the latter journal announced that it has stopped publishing new articles but will maintain free access to its archive. [Romain M and others. So long but not farewell: The Medscape Journal of Medicine (1999-2009, Jan 30, 2009] A Facebook group provides information about his background and a convenient way to communicate your support to President Obama.


Stem cell recipient develops tumor. A case has been reported of a boy who, four years after treatment at a Russian stem-cell clinic, developed brain and spinal cancers that appear to be derived from the transplanted stem cells. [Amariglio N and others. Donor-derived brain tumor following neural stem cell transplantation in an ataxia telangiectasia patient. PLoS Med 6(2): e1000029. doi:10.1371/journal. pmed.1000029] The boy has a rare neurological disease that local doctors say could not have been helped by stem-cell therapy. The case illustrates the pointlessness of seeking stem-cell therapy from commercial sources.


FSMB monitoring "rogue" pharmacies. The National Clearinghouse on Internet Prescribing (NCIP) collects and disseminates information about "rogue" pharmacy sites that offer prescription drugs without proper medical evaluations. Maintained by the Federation of State Medical Boards, the NCIP actively seeks to identify the physicians and pharmacies associated with these sites by making undercover purchases. The information thus generated is then reported to relevant state and federal agencies and complaints are filed with state medical and pharmacy boards. This not only facilitates regulation but also helps to reduce duplication of efforts. The NCIP also supports state medical board efforts to promulgate policies and guidelines for physician practice through the Internet. Its site offers data on relevant laws, policies, and enforcement actions. Its quarterly newsletter, RxBeat, provides handy summaries of disciplinary actions and other news.


Tainted peanut butter will spawn many lawsuits. The FDA has confirmed that the recent outbreak of outbreak was caused by peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Blakely, Georgia processing plant of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Many manufacturers use peanut paste as an ingredient in commercially produced products such as cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream. On January 28, PCA expanded its recall to include all peanut products produced on or after January 1, 2007. Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall. The FDA has posted a list of the recalled products. Although PCA has declared bankruptcy, many of the companies that used the contaminated ingredients are liable. Attorney Christopher E. Grell, one of Quackwatch's legal advisors, has set up a Web site to provide legal assistance.


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This page was posted on February 19, 2009.