Consumer Health Digest #10-14

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 8, 2010

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

Damages awarded in chelation-related death. A Montana jury has awarded $501,007.68 to the widow and the estate of John Sisson, who died of a heart attack at age 52. The suit complaint states:

Before the trial took place, the Montana Alternative Health Care Board ruled that Schlechten was negligent in failing to refer Sisson but was not responsible for his death. The jury reached the same conclusion. It awarded Sisson's widow $982,368 for loss of income, loss of consortium, emotional distress, and pain and suffering, but designated only 51% of this amount as Schlechten's share of the responsibility.

Chelation therapy has no proven value or plausible rationale for treating coronary artery disease. In 1998, the FTC secured a consent agreement barring the American College for Advancement in Medicine (the leading organization for chelationists) from making unsubstantiated advertising claims that chelation therapy is effective against any disease of the circulatory system. During the trial, a defense witness who was an ACAM member had to admit during cross-examination that the testimony she had supplied about chelation therapy during direct examination would be considered false and misleading by the FTC.

Chelationist disciplined. Rashid A. Buttar, D.O., who operates the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research in central North Carolina, has signed a consent order under which he agreed to (a) be reprimanded, (b) obey all laws and all rules and regulations involving medical practice, and (c) to provide an informed consent form that includes language specified in an attachment to the order. The agreement was a compromise in which Buttar acknowledged that his treatment of an out-of state child whom he had never examined had been illegal and the North Carolina Medical Board agreed that the settlement would resolve all other pending complaints against him, which included concerns about seven patients mentioned in two Notices of Charges filed in 2009. The consent form includes acknowledgements that treatments that Dr. Buttar prescribes have not been proven effective and that, "the possible adverse effects . . . include, but are not limited to, infection, phlebitis, headaches, dizziness, hypoglycemia, electrolyte imbalance, mineral depletion, fatigue, kidney failure, or even death." The Board's compromise, which resulted in a lighter penalty than Buttar deserved, was influenced by a North Carolina law that gives partial protection to nonstandard practices. [Novella S. Springtime for charlatans. Neurologica blog, April 8, 2010]

Robban Sica, M.D. charged with violating probation. Psychiatrist Robban A. Sica, M.D., who operates the Center for the Healing Arts in Orange, Connecticut, is facing charges that could result in revocation of her medical license. In 2003, she was charged with improperly using chelation therapy to treat cardiovascular disease, failing to obtain adequate consent for such treatment, and improperly managing many of these patients whom she said were suffering from heavy metal toxicity. In 2005, Sica and the state licensing authorities signed a consent order under which she agreed to: (a) serve a year of probation, (b) stop using DMPS as a chelating agent, (c) stop using a provoked urine test to diagnose heavy metal toxicity, (d) use a patient consent form which states that chelation therapy has not been scientifically substantiated, and (e) have her practice monitored by an independent consultant. DMPS is not a legal drug. In March 2010, Sica was charged with violating the 2005 order by prescribing it for 11 patients. Quackwatch has additional information on Sica's background.

Hepatitis spread by chelation clinic. Public health officials have determined that an outbreak of hepatitis C was caused by a nurse who improperly administered intravenous therapy at the Wellness Works clinic in Brandon, Florida. So far, eight patients who received chelation therapy have tested positive for the disease, and one may have been the source of the virus. The investigators suspect that transmission at the clinic occurred through re-use of syringes that should have been discarded. Clinic director Carol Roberts, MD, has said the eight patients were undergoing chelation therapy to remove what she described as toxic metals from their bodies. [Martin R, Lehman H. Hepatitis C outbreak at Brandon holistic clinic blamed on syringes. St. Petersburg Times, March 20, 2010] Wellness Works is listed as a study site for the NIH-sponsored but ethically dubious Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy.

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This page was posted on April 8, 2010.