Consumer Health Digest #09-010
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 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.
Chiropractic contracts deemed improper. Two state licensing boards and a California court have severely criticized the use of contracts in which patients pay in advance or agree to pay for many visits at a "discount" price. Chiropractors who offer them typically tell all patients that long-term care is needed to prevent what they call "subluxation degeneration" (a mythical condition). Even if some treatment might be helpful, it is not possible to know in advance that a large specified number of visits will be needed. In addition to excessive visits, contracts often contain provisions intended to discourage quitting. Some say that if treatment is stopped before all of the visits are used, the discount will be cancelled and visits used will be figured at their "full" price. Some contracts also call for an "administrative fee" for early stoppage. In April 2008, the Maryland Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners advised chiropractors not to use "extended treatment contracts." Last month, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts settled charges against Bradley Eck, D.C. with a consent order under which he must pay investigative costs plus a $5,000 fine; serve probation for two years; and provide full refunds to several patients who did not receive all of the treatments for which they contracted. Also last month, a California judge ruled that two women were entitled to refunds from Donald Harte, D.C., because their contracts were unconscionable. Chirobase has details of these cases and links to the legal documents.
European Commission report supports amalgam fillings. The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks has concluded that dental amalgam is safe and effective and may be the best material to use in some restorations. [SCENIHR. Scientific opinion on the safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users. May 6, 2008] The committee's 74-page report concludes:
- While some local adverse effects are seen, the incidence is low and usually readily managed.
- The current use of dental amalgam does not pose a risk to health apart from allergic reactions.
- The main exposure to mercury in people with amalgam restorations occurs during the placement or removal of fillings. Dental personnel are also exposed, but, this can be minimized by the use of appropriate clinical techniques.
- There is no clinical justification for removing clinically satisfactory amalgam restorations, except in patients allergic to amalgam constituents.
- Alternative materials have clinical limitations and toxicological hazards. Allergies to some of these substances have been reported, both in patients and in dental personnel. Scientific data concerning exposure to these substances are limited. The use of these substances has revealed little evidence of clinically significant adverse events.
- Overall, dental health can be adequately ensured by both types of material. All materials are considered safe to use and are all associated with very low rates of local adverse effects with no evidence of systemic disease.
Antioxidant use is associated with increased cancer risk. Researchers who analyzed data from 77,126 people who answered detailed questions about their supplement use over a ten-year period have found that longer duration of use of individual beta-carotene, retinol, and lutein supplements was associated with significantly higher risk of lung cancer. The authors concluded: "Long-term use of individual beta-carotene, retinol, and lutein supplements should not be recommended for lung cancer prevention, particularly among smokers." [Satia JA and others. Long-term Use of (beta)-carotene, retinol, lycopene, and lutein supplements and lung cancer risk: Results from the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, Feb 10, 2009]
Casewatch archiving tax returns. Casewatch has begun posting federal tax returns of nonprofit organizations associated with questionable health information, services, and/or products. Such reports often provide interesting information about aims, leaders, activities, and funding.
This page was posted on March 5, 2009.