Consumer Health Digest #11-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 13, 2011

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.

HHS proposing to lower water fluoridation level. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking public comment on proposed new guidance that will update and replace the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards for fluoride concentrations in community drinking water. [Proposed HHS recommendation for fluoride concentration in drinking water for prevention of dental caries. Federal Register 76:2383-2388, 2011] Too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which, in its mildest form, causes small, white, virtually invisible opaque areas on teeth. Severe fluorosis causes brownish mottling, which occurs mainly in areas where the natural level of fluoride is considerably greater than one part per million. Fluoridation's goal is to provide as much protection as possible while minimizing the incidence of problematic fluorosis. The current Public Health Service recommendations for optimal fluoride concentrations are based on the air temperature of geographic areas and range from 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L. The new recommended level (0.7 mg) is based on four findings:

More Wakefield scheming uncovered. The British Medical Journal has revealed that disgraced researcher Andrew Wakefield had elaborate plans to profit from the fears he aroused by claiming that linsk exist among the mesles-mumps-rubella vaccine, autism, and bowel disease. The new report—the second in a series by Brian Deer—describes how Wakefield hoped to market "safer" vaccines, a kit for diagnosing a disorder he dubbed "autistic enterocolitis," and therapies based on a product he called "transfer factor." The article stated that (a) prospective investors were told that the test kit could produce as much as $43 million per year, (b) Wakefield had received over $650,000 for helping a legal firm that was suing vaccine manufacturers, and (c) these facts were not reported as conflicts of interest when he submitted his now infamous report to The Lancet. [Deer B. Secrets of the MMR scare, part 2: How the vaccine crisis was meant to make money. BMJ 342:c5258, 2011]

Australian anti-vax group gets slammed. The New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Gaming and Racing revoked the fundraising authority held by the Australian Vaccination Network Inc (AVN). An investigation by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) found that AVN had breached charitable fundraising laws and potentially misled the public. The revocation, which took effect on October 20, 2010, means that AVN is no longer licensed to conduct fundraising appeals in NSW and is not entitled to accept donations from members of the public via any method of collection including face-to-face and online appeals. AVN can still receive donations from its members, because this is not considered fundraising under the relevant charitable fundraising legislation. The OLGR investigation also took into account the findings of the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), which established that AVN's Web site provided information that was solely anti-vaccination as well as information that was incorrect and misleading. The HCCC has published a public warning stating that AVN's failure to post a disclaimer on its Web site may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate, posing a potential risk to public health and safety. AVN has appealed the Minister's decision to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal. Meryl Dorey, who runs AVN, has announced that it will shut down unless members donate an average of at least $100 per person to ensure that it will have sufficient funding for at least two years.

Texas shuts down alleged "pill mill." A disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board has temporarily suspended the Pain Management Clinic Certificate of a Houston pain clinic, Spring Wellness Center, thereby barring it from operating as a pain clinic until further notice. [Dean S. Texas crackdown on pill mills leads to Spring clinic being shut down. Houston Examiner, Jan 12, 2011] The action was based upon the Board's determination that continued operation of the facility posed a threat to the public welfare. State laws require all pain clinics to be owned and operated by a licensed physician who is on site during at least 33% of the clinic's operating hours. Last August, the certificate needed to operate the clinic was issued to Jesus Caquias, M.D., as supposed owner/operator of the clinic. But an inspection by board investigators and federal drug enforcement agents found that the facility was actually owned and managed by two physician assistants and that Caquias had never visited it. Caquias is facing board action related to his participation in the now-defunct CARE Clinics, which provided dubious services to autistic children. No public information is available about the extent to which he was aware that the Spring Wellness Center was operating illegally.

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This page was revised on January 14, 2011.