Consumer Health Digest #10-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 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.

Stem cell clinic operator cited. In 2009, William C. Rader, M.D. was cited by the Medical Board California and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine for violating advertising regulations and practicing under the name "Medra" without having a valid Fictitious Name Permit (FNP). An FNP is not the same as a fictitious business name statement, a local business permit, or registration with a city or county government. Having a city/county‚Äźlevel permit or registration does not exempt a physician from the medical board's FNP requirement. This year, Rader obtained FNPs for Medra (incorporated 1997), Medstem (incorporated 2005), and The Dulcinea Institute. He is also set up a private corporations called The Fetal Stem Cell Institute, Inc. (2006), and a private foundation called the Cutting-Edge for Medical Invention Foundation (2001).

Since 1997, Rader has operated a stem cell clinic, initially in the Bahamas and currently in the Dominican Republic. Last year, BBC's Panorama criticized Rader's activities. One part of the Panorama report—titled "Stem cells and miracles—described the operation of his clinic and another clinic in China operated by others. Another part—titled "MS patient: The search for 'a cure'"—shows how Rader tried to pressure a woman who had multiple sclerosis to undergo his treatment. The complete broadcast can be viewed on YouTube.

Glucosamine flunks another test. A study of patients with chronic low back pain has found no benefit from taking 1500 mg/day of glucosamine. The study involved 250 adults with chronic low-back pain and degenerative osteoarthritis who were followed for one year. Half took glucosamine, and half received a placebo. The glucosamine group did no better than the placebo group. [Wilkens P and others. Effect of glucosamine on pain-related disability in patients with chronic low back pain and degenerative lumbar osteoarthritis. JAMA 304:45-52, 2010] Although some studies of glucosamine supplements have been positive, the best-designed studies have been negative. [Barrett S. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis: Benefit is unlikely. Quackwatch, July 8, 2010]

Another study finds no value to lowering blood homocysteine level. Another well-designed clinical trial has found that substantial long-term reductions in blood homocysteine levels with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation did not have beneficial effects on vascular outcomes. [SEARCH Collaborative Group. Effects of homocysteine-lowering with folic acid plus vitamin B12 vs placebo on mortality and major morbidity in myocardial infarction survivors: A randomized trial. JAMA 303:2486-2494, 2010] In 1969, a connection between homocysteine (a sulfur-containing amino acid) and cardiovascular disease was proposed when it was observed that people with a rare hereditary condition called homocystinuria are prone to develop severe cardiovascular disease in their teens and twenties. Supplementation with one or more of the three B-vitamins can lower plasma homocysteine levels, but large controlled studies have found that this does not reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events. More trials are still in progress, but at this point it does not look like taking B-vitamins to lower homocysteine levels makes sense except for people with homocystinuria Nor is it advisable to do routine screening for homocysteine levels. Quackwatch has additional information.

HON complaint filed against Cleveland Clinic Web site. Dr. Stephen Barrett has notified Health On the Net (HON) Foundation officials that the Cleveland Clinic Web site contains an article about reiki therapy that violates the HON Code of Conduct for medical and health Web sites. HONcode Principle 4 requires that, "Where appropriate, information contained on this site will be supported by clear references to source data." Principle 5 states: "Any claims relating to the benefits/performance of a specific treatment . . . will be supported by appropriate, balanced evidence in the manner outlined in Principle 4." The article claims that reiki is "useful" in treating all types of cancer, fertility issues, Parkinson's disease, psychological illnesses, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, digestive problems, and stress-related diseases. The article also claims that reiki treatment may detoxify the body, stimulate the immune system, apply universal life-force energy to the body, stimulate bone healing, increase vibrational frequency, and dissolve energy blockages. Reiki is one of several nonsensical methods commonly referred to as "energy healing." These methods are based on the idea that the body is surrounded or permeated by an energy field that is not measurable by ordinary scientific instrumentation. Reiki practitioners claim to facilitate healing by strengthening or "balancing" the alleged force. In a traditional reiki session, the client lies down or sits fully clothed. The practitioner's hands are placed lightly on or just above the client's body, palms down, using a series of positions that are held until the practitioner feels that the flow of "energy" has slowed or stopped. [Barrett S. Reiki is nonsense. Quackwatch, Aug 4, 2009]

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This page was revised on July 9, 2010.