Consumer Health Digest #10-15

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 15, 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.

British chiropractors drop libel suit. The British Chiropractic Association has dropped its abusive libel suit against science writer Simon Singh. The case arose after Singh wrote:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organization is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

A lower court judge ruled that the word "bogus" must be interpreted as "deliberately dishonest," which would mean that instead of examining the truth or falsity of the claims, the trial would focus on whether or not the BCA believed them. Two weeks ago, however, the Court of Appeal concluded that the passage reflected Singh's opinion and could be defended as such. Singh is now entitled to recover most of the £200,000 he spent on legal fees. Had the case continued, BCA would have found itself in an awkward position, because the claims Singh criticized would have been subjected to court scrutiny.

Meanwhile, a campaign to modify the the UK's Draconian libel laws has gained the support of all three major parties and is moving forward. More than 50,000 people worldwide have signed the petition supporting reform. Regardless of where you live, please sign the petition, even if you signed a similar one posted last year.

Rashid Buttar sued for fraud. Vincy Tidwell, Jr, of Greensboro, North Carolina, is suing Dr. Rashid Buttar for fraud. Buttar operates the Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research, where he offers "detoxification" and other "integrative therapies" to patients with cancer and other serious diseases. The clinic's Web site states: "Effectively treating patients who the medical community has failed or given up on, by practicing the medicine of the future, today." Tidwell's complaint alleges that through advertisements and other means, Buttar represented that he could help cancer patients. After being diagnosed elsewhere with prostate cancer, he consulted Buttar in 2004 and was treated with chelation, dietary supplements, and many other questionable modalities during the next two years. The suit charges that Buttar violated North Carolina's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which permits awards of triple damages. The details are not specified in the complaint, but the total billings were about $150,000. Buttar is chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology, whose members typically use provoked urine testing to diagnose nonexistent "heavy metal toxicity" for which they recommend "detoxification" with chelation therapy. [Barrett S. Be wary of "board certification" in clinical metal toxicology. Quackwatch, April 15, 2010]

Missouri warns against health-insurance scams. Missouri Department of Insurance Director John M. Huff is has noted that scam artists have been offering fake insurance that is supposedly related to federal health care reform. At least one St. Louis-area consumer has been approached by a door-to-door salesman claiming to be a federal agent selling insurance under the new law. Huff warns that anyone claiming to work for the federal government who offers an insurance product is a fraud and that seniors may be a prime target. Last year the Missouri agency warned that Medicare:

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This page was posted on April 15, 2010.