Consumer Health Digest #10-38

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 23, 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.

Medical Letter pans provoked testing. The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, which is the scientific community's most respected drug advisory, has criticized the use of provoked testing as a prelude to chelation therapy. In this procedure, a chelating agent is administered before the urine or blood specimen is obtained and sent to a laboratory that measures the levels of lead, mercury and other heavy metals. Provocation transiently raises excretion levels, which the laboratory may (improperly) report as "elevated or "very elevated." The Medical Letter concluded that "the use of chelation therapy in non-standard protocols for unsubstantiated indications should be discouraged. The results of provoked urine testing are not an acceptable basis for such treatment." [Nonstandard uses of chelation therapy. The Medical Letter 52: 75-76, 2010] Quackwatch has detailed information about provoked testing.

Stem cell experts launch consumer-protection site. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has launched a closer look at STEM CELL treatments with information geared to help consumers make rational decisions about stem cell treatment. The new site contains a handbook of basic information that includes questions that consumers should ask a prospective clinic and discuss with a trustworthy physician. ISSCR is also querying English-speaking clinics and hopes to list which ones do or do not provide evidence that appropriate oversight and other patient protections are in place for the treatments they offer. The site invites people to submit names of clinics they want reviewed.

Infomercial marketer hit with another lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of more than 200,000 Americans who have purchased Dual-Action Cleanse and/or had unauthorized charges placed on their credit or debit cards by Klee Irwin, James Chappell, attorney Carl Randall Stevens, Irwin Naturals, Ultimate Nutraceuticals LLC, and two other companies that Irwin owns and/or controls. The complaint and certification memorandum charge:

Earlier this year, an Arizona man who used Ultimate Cleanse filed suit against Irwin Naturals and the store where he bought it. The complaint charged that the product caused perforation of his colon that required hospitalization and two operations. The product contains cascara sagrada, a harsh laxative that in 2002 was banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs. It can still be legally sold as a dietary supplement, but there is no logical reason to use it. The surgeon who treated the man believes that the perforation was caused by the cascara content of the product. Infomercial Watch warns against using Dual Action Cleanse.

Cleveland Clinic removes irresponsible reiki article. Shortly after Dr. Stephen Barrett complained to the Health On the Net (HON) Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic Web site deleted an article which had stated 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." 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." In recent years, HON has become tougher in asking Web sites that display its seal to either substantiate challenged claims or remove them. After noting that the reiki article had been removed, Barrett asked HON to look at seven more articles on the Cleveland Clinic site.

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This page was revised on September 24, 2010.