Consumer Health Digest #09-12

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 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.

"Autism specialists" criticized. Last month's report by Special Master Denise K. Vowell of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims suggests that Jeffrey Bradstreet, M.D., of Melbourne, Florida, habitually misdiagnoses and mistreats autistic children. Bradstreet, who trained as an obstetrician and gynecologist, considers himself to be a family physician who limits his practice to evaluating and treating patients with autism spectrum disorders and related neurological and developmental disorders. Vowell's 293-page report dissects his management of Colten Snyder, whose family petitioned the court for compensation based on their belief that vaccines caused the boy to develop autism. The court ruled that no such connection exists. Vowell's report includes a long list of diagnoses—many of them vague—that Bradstreet used as he went along. These may have been provided in an attempt to help families persuade insurance companies to pay for services that would ordinarily not be covered. [Barrett S. "Autism specialist" blasted by special master. Quackwatch, March 15, 2009] Talk about Curing Autism, which advocates "biomedical" approaches to autism, discusses this strategy in its Guide to Insurance Coverage for Biomedical & Traditional Autism Treatments.

The Court of Federal Claims also criticized Arthur C. Krigsman, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist who is on the research staff at the Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas. Krigsman speculates that autistic children are prone to develop an intestinal inflammation in response to MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) immunization. All three Special Masters concluded that his MMR-related claims lacked credibility.

Krigsman has also had trouble related to his medical licensing. Before moving to Texas, Krigsman conducted research at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City related to his speculations. In 2002, the hospital's Institutional Review Board became concerned that he was doing unnecessary colonoscopies as part of an unapproved research project. Court documents indicate that he did not fully cooperate with the hospital investigation and ultimately filed suit when the hospital restricted his privileges. In February 2004, the Florida Medical Board assessed an administrative penalty of $1,000, plus $89 in costs, for failure to document continuing medical education required for initial licensure. In April 2004, the New York State Supreme Court dismissed his suit against Lenox Hospital. He applied for a Texas license in November and resigned from the hospital staff in December. In 2005, the Texas Medical Board agreed to license him but assessed a $5,000 penalty for (a) failing to disclose the Florida board action, and (b) while still unlicensed in Texas, misrepresenting himself as available to see patients in Texas.

Enviga weight-loss claims curbed. Coke, Nestle, and Beverage Partnership Worldwide (BPW) have settled charges that they falsely advertised that Enviga, a green tea beverage, can result in weight loss by burning extra calories. The charges were brought by coalition of 26 states and the District of Columbia, led by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. The companies have agreed to re-label Enviga and any similar product to add disclosures, to disclaim any weight loss benefit, and to note that weight loss is only possible through diet and exercise. They also agreed to pay $650,000 to the states. In 2007, Blumenthal began investigating questionable claims that drinking Enviga would burn more calories than it contains and implying that consuming the product would lead to weight loss. The claims were based on a small 3-day study that could not establish that any calorie burning associated with Enviga could be sustained over time. The settlement requires that in any marketing of Enviga, or a similarly formulated beverage, that uses the terms "the calorie burner," "negative calories," "drink negative," or makes any claims explicitly or implicitly that consumers will burn calories by drinking Enviga, there must be a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the product does not produce weight loss without diet and exercise. The other participating states were Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and the District of Columbia. [Attorney General announces settlement resolving weight loss and calorie-burning claims about Enviga. Press release, Connecticut Attorney General, Feb 26, 2009]

Liver toxicity reported in hydroxycut users. Two cases of liver toxicity have been reported in users of hydroxycut supplements. The report also discusses other dietary supplement weight-loss products that appear to have caused liver problems. [Dara L and others. Hydroxycut hepatotoxicity: A case series and review of liver toxicity from herbal weight loss supplements. World Journal of Gastroenterology 14:6999-7004, 2008]

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This page was revised on March 19, 2009.