Consumer Health Digest #10-49

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 9, 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.

Fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue "specialist" disciplined. James Edward Stevens, D.O, who practices at the Dallas office of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers (FFC), has been disciplined for "nontherapeutic prescribing." In August, Stevens and the Medical Board of Texas entered into an agreed order under which he must pay a $3,000 administrative penalty and, within one year, complete 24 hours of continuing medical education that include eight hours in immunology, eight hours in endocrinology and eight hours in medical recordkeeping. The agreed order settled charges that he had prescribed nontherapeutic (inappropriate) supplements and drugs and had failed to obtain proper consent for long-term use of steroid drugs for a patient with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. FFC is a chain of 16 clinics that specializes in treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. The FFC Web site states that its doctors "diagnose and treat the underlying causes" and take a "big picture approach" that includes "mitochondrial enhancement," "hormone balancing," and treatment of "underlying viral infections" with "minimally necessary medications and supplements to assure absence of symptoms." The Texas board's order did not specify which of the drugs and supplements used by Stevens that it considered nontherapeutic. However, a printed FFC "IM/IV Order Sheet" lists more than 20 types of questionable intravenous therapy. Stevens, who is also licensed in Florida, has also had trouble there. In 2007, the licensing authorities obtained a judgment of $2,121.51 for failing to pay a required annual assessment from 2002 through 2006. In June 2010, the Florida Board of Medicine ordered him to pay the judgment, reprimanded him, and fined him an additional $1,000.

Chicago Tribune blasts Lyme quackery. The Chicago Tribune has published an excellent investigative report about the improper diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. [Callahan P, Tsouderos T. Chronic Lyme disease: A dubious diagnosis. Chicago Tribune, Dec 8, 2010]

Google changes search preferences. During the past few months, many people have found that their Google search results were limited to 10 per page and attempts to reset their preferences to display 100 pages did not work. The change coincided with deployment of Google Instant, a search enhancement that shows results as you type. Google instant can reduce typing time for searches, but it also limits the results to 10 per page—a fact that has not been widely publicized. The 100-results-per-page setting is the most efficient one for health-related investigations. Deploying it may require several steps:

Misguided California city officials attack amalgam use. In October, the City Council of Costa Mesa, California approved a nonbinding resolution asking dentists to stop using amalgam and calling on state and federal agencies to ban its use in dental practice. [Palmer C. California city seeks amalgam ban. ADA News, Nov 15, 2010] In response, California Dental Association (CDA) president Tom Steward, D.D.S. issued a memo to dental leaders throughout California in which he stated:

While this action does not have the force of law, it is extremely troubling. Of further concern is that it came to dentistry's attention after the fact. It is important that local dental components in the greater Orange County area be aware of any pending activity and work with CDA Public Policy staff to identify the appropriate local, state, and federal representatives that the resolution alludes to, and provide the information that CDA has prepared.

. . . . Please monitor the city council agendas in your area for any dental amalgam activity. If you become aware of anti-amalgam efforts, please notify CDA's Public Policy Department immediately.

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This page was posted on December 10, 2010.