Consumer Health Digest #09-42

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
Oct 15, 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.

Health reform bills would cover Christian Science "treatment." Current versions of the leading health reform bills contain convoluted language that would force insurance companies to pay for prayer services rendered by Christian Science practitioners. Sections 125 of H.R. 3200 and 3103(a)(1)(d) of S. 1679 would prohibit payers from denying payment for "religious or spiritual health care" for services that the Internal Revenue Service allows as deductible. Christian Science "treatment" is the only prayer-based service that is tax-deductible.

Medical Letter generally supports generic drug use. The highly respected Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics has reviewed the scientific studies that compare the brand-name and generic versions of cardiovascular drugs, antimicrobials, proton-pump inhibitors, and levothyroxine (a thyroid drug). Its latest report concludes:

The continuing claims of pharmaceutical manufacturers and others that generic drugs are inferior to brand-name originals still lack convincing documentation. Nevertheless, with levothyroxine and antiepileptic drugs, Medical Letter consultants recommend using one formulation (brand name or generic) consistently or, if consistency is not possible with generics, prescribing the brand name routinely. [Generic drugs revisited. Medical Letter 51:81-82, 2009]

Cancer center denies product endorsement. The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) has issued a statement denying that it endorses or recommends Evolv bottled spring water. The EvolvHealth company merely hired MDACC to conduct a few tests related to possible antiinflammatory activity in cell culture preparations. The tests did not determine efficacy or toxicity, and the results are not applicable to humans. EvolvHealth claims that its beverage can provide increased stamina, energy, and endurance and "may" help to maintain circulation; support the immune system; enhance absorption of important nutrients; restore mental alertness; and "neutralize harmful toxins." However, the product does not appear to have any ingredients that can do any of these things. MDACC's disclaimer appears to have had little effect on EvolvHealth's marketing activities. [Barrett S. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center does not endorse Evolv spring water. MLM Watch, Oct 15, 2009]

Chiropractic board to consider "informed consent" for neck manipulation. Under some duress, the Connecticut State Board of Chiropractic Examiners has agreed to consider whether, as part of informed consent prior to neck manipulation, a chiropractor must address the risk of stroke with the patient. A hearing on this issue has been set for January 5th and 6th. The Connecticut Chiropractic Association and Connecticut Chiropractic Council will participate as parties to argue against required disclosure, with the International Chiropractors Association and malpractice insurer ChiroSecure appearing as interveners in support of this viewpoint. Victims of Chiropractic Abuse (Janet Levy) and Chiropractic Stroke Awareness Group (Britt Harwe) are scheduled to appear as parties with the right to cross-examine other participants. In addition to being informed about  the risk of stroke prior to manipulation, Levy and Harwe want patients to receive a discharge summary warning them to seek immediate medical attention if  specified symptoms of stroke appear. The interveners arguing for full disclosure include the Connecticut Medical Examining Board, Victims of Irresponsible Chiropractic Education (Susan Hoffman), Campaign for Science Based health Care (Attorney Jann Bellamy), and Preston Long, D.C., author of the book The Naked Chiropractor.

Stroke from chiropractic neck manipulation occurs when an artery to the brain ruptures or becomes blocked by a clot as a result of being stretched. Most chiropractors claim that the incidence of stroke following neck manipulation is extremely small. Speculations exist that the risk of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 40,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because (a) there has been little systematic study of its frequency; (b) the largest malpractice insurers won't reveal how many cases they know about; and (c) a large majority of cases that medical doctors see are not reported in scientific journals. [Barrett S. Chiropractic's dirty secret: Neck manipulation and strokes. Quackwatch, Jan 18, 2009]

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This page was posted on October 15, 2009.