Consumer Health Digest #09-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 7, 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.

Oprah criticized for spreading unfounded vaccination fears. Slate Magazine has criticized Oprah Winfrey for providing a prominent platform for actress Jenny McCarthy. [Allen A. Say it ain't so, O: Why is Oprah Winfrey promoting vaccine skeptic Jenny McCarthy?] McCarthy has been a frequent guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and elsewhere where she claims that vaccines caused her son to be autistic and that children get too many vaccines too soon. The Slate article states:

For some reason, Oprah and the rest of the entertainment world treat McCarthy as if she were Mother Theresa kissing lepers or Nelson Mandela denouncing apartheid. She's been proven wrong about vaccines, yet she persists in claiming that they are so dangerous that it's better to get vaccine-preventable diseases than get the shots.

Despite criticism of McCarthy by representatives of the scientific community, Oprah's Harpo Productions recently contracted with McCarthy to develop a syndicated talk show that McCarthy would host, a blog by McCarthy on, and other media projects. Meanwhile, a team of public health experts has noted that that "perceived safety issues, such as a purported association between vaccines and autism, though not supported by a credible body of scientific evidence, have left increasing numbers of parents to refuse or delay vaccination for their children." [Orner SB. Vaccine refusal, mandatory Immunization, and the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases. New England Journal of Medicine 360:1981-1898, 2009]

Infant killed by neck manipulation. A Dutch medical journal has reported that a formerly healthy 3-month-old girl died after manipulation of the neck and vertebral column by a “craniosacral therapist.” The report states that during continued and deep bending of the neck, the patient developed fecal incontinence, loss of body tone, and respiratory arrest followed by cardiac arrest. [Holla M. and others. Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde 153:A290, 2009]

FDA issues Hydroxycut warning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products by Iovate Health Sciences Inc., of Oakville, Ontario and distributed by Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc. of Blasdell, N.Y. [FDA warns consumers to stop using hydroxycut products: Dietary supplements linked to one death; pose risk of liver injury. FDA news release, May 1, 2009] Iovate has agreed to recall 14 hydroxycut products from the market because some of them are associated with serious liver injuries. The FDA has received 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes (an indicator of potential liver injury) to liver damage requiring liver transplant. [Sundloff SF. Letter to Terry Begley, April 30, 2009] One death due to liver failure has been reported. Other health problems include seizures; cardiovascular disorders; and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure. The products were sold under the Iovate and MuscleTech brand names with claims that they could decrease body fat, control appetite, cause weight loss, enhance energy. The Hydroxycut Weight-Loss Formula package claimed users could "lose up to 4-5 times the weight than diet and exercise alone."

Dubious autism clinic under fire. The Austin-American Statesman has reported that Aetna had stopped paying claims submitted by CARE Clinics and that it and two other insurance companies were questioning more than $1 million in claims. [Roser MA. Insurance companies question autism clinic's charges: Owner of clinic, which uses controversial therapies, says she's had to lay off staff, cut hours. Austin American-Statesman, May 3, 2009.] The clinic's owner/director, Kazuko Curtin, stated that to cope with the paperwork and loss of cash flow, her Austin clinic is open only 10 days a month and her Tampa facility is temporarily closed. Curtin also indicated that the Texas Medical Board is investigating a complaint against the clinic's medical director, Jesus Caquias, M.D., for "practice inconsistent with public health and welfare—quality of care" and "non-therapeutic prescribing or treatment." Autism Watch has a detailed report about the clinic's activities.

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This page was posted on May 7, 2009.