Consumer Health Digest #10-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 3, 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.

No benefit found from vaccination delay. Researchers from the University of Louisville have compared more than 40 variables related to mental and neurological function among a large group of children. The study was done to explore whether it is safer to follow the recommended vaccine schedule or to spread out receipt over a longer period of time, as recommended by maverick physicians and celebrities who would like the public to believe that vaccines cause problems such as autism. After finding no statistically significant differences that favored the less-vaccinated children, the researchers concluded: "Timely vaccination during infancy has no adverse effect on neuropsychological outcomes 7 to 10 years later. These data may reassure parents who are concerned that children receive too many vaccines too soon." [Smith MJ, Woods CR. On-time vaccine receipt in the first year does not adversely affect neuropsychological outcomes. Pediatrics DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-2489, May 24, 2010] The scientific consensus remains that delays gain nothing and leave children unnecessarily vulnerable to serious infection during infancy. [Crislip M, Barrett S. Do children get too many immunizations? The answer is no. Quackwatch, May 29, 2010]

Study finds widespread chiropractic overclaims. A recent survey has found that unsubstantiated claims are very common among chiropractic Web sites. [Ernst E, Gilbey A. Chiropractic claims in the English-speaking world. New Zealand Medical Journal, 123:36-44, 2010] In the Fall of 2008, the researchers looked at the sites of 200 chiropractors and 9 chiropractic associations in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each site was examined for claims which suggested that chiropractic treatment was appropriate for asthma, headache/migraine, colic, ear infection/earache/otitis media, neck pain, whiplash, and lower back pain. Spinal manipulation for back pain can be effective but has not been demonstrated to be superior to other standard treatments. Published evidence of effectiveness for the other conditions ranges from slim to none. The study found that 95% of the surveyed sites made unsubstantiated claims for at least one of these conditions and 38% of the sites made unsubstantiated claims for all of them. The authors concluded:

The majority of chiropractors and their associations in the English speaking world seem to make therapeutic claims that are not supported by sound evidence, while only 28% of chiropractor websites promote lower back pain, which is supported by some evidence. We suggest the ubiquity of the unsubstantiated claims constitutes an ethical and public health issue.

In this study, the researchers used Google searches to identify 40 sites in each country that presumably were viewed often. The Chirobase Web site has quotes from more than 200 U.S. and Canadian sites that contain inappropriate claims but were not selected systematically. [Barrett S. Chiropractic Web sites: What do they tell us? Quackwatch, April 21, 2010]

British General Chiropractic Council abandons "subluxation" concept. The British General Chiropractic Council (GCC), which regulates chiropractors in the United Kingdom, has issued a guidance statement which says:

In response, the British Chiropractic Association warned its members that the GCC Code of Practice and Standard of Proficiency now requires them to "refrain from making any reference to Vertebral Subluxation Complex in media to which their patients or the general public may have access." Many chiropractors claim that (a) subluxations (alleged spinal misalignments) are the cause or underlying cause of ill health and that all spines should be checked and adjusted periodically. [Barrett S. Subluxation: Chiropractic's elusive buzzword. Chirobase, May 26, 2006] It remains to be seen whether the BCC/BMA statements will cause them to modify what they do.

TCM practitioners disciplined. Casewatch has posted reports about four Australian "Chinese medicine" practitioners who were disciplined for unprofessional conduct that involved deceptive claims:

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This page was posted on June 1, 2010.