Consumer Health Digest #11-03

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 20, 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.

Food allergy guidelines criticize 12 tests. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has issued new guidelines for food allergy management. The report includes a recommendation against using 12 tests for the routine evaluation of IgE-mediated food allergies (those in which an allergenic protein triggers an immune response). One of the tests (basophil histamine release/activation) is not a routine test but is commonly used as a research tool. The rest are said to have no value in food allergy diagnosis.

  • Lymphocyte stimulation
  • Facial thermography
  • Allergen-specific IgG4
  • Gastric juice analysis
  • Endoscopic allergen provocation
  • Mediator release assay (LEAP diet)


The report concluded that use of these tests may result in false positive or false negative diagnoses. False positive tests may lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions. False negative tests may delay appropriate diagnostic workup. The full text is available online. [Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 126:S1-S58, 2010] A version intended for laypersons will be published later this year.The links above provide additional information about the tests.

British stem cell provider loses medical license. The British General Medical Council has struck Dr. Robert Trossel off its medical register. The main charges against him centered around his promotion and use of stem cell treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Among other things, he had claimed that in 2005, he had personally treated 60 people with MS, 10% of whom were out of their wheelchair and 80% had significant improvement as a result of his treatment. He also claimed that his stem cell therapy was effective against heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, ALS, and spinal cord lesions and other serious conditions and diseases. Some of the cells came from the brain and spinal cord of cows. After seven weeks of hearings, the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel concluded:

You have exploited vulnerable patients and their families. You have given false hope and made unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims to patients suffering from degenerative and devastating illnesses. Your conduct has unquestionably done lasting harm, if not physically, then mentally and financially, to these patients and also to their families and supporters. It is, therefore, undeniable that you have abused the position of trust afforded to you. You continue to advocate untested and unproved treatments, using your status as a registered doctor to reinforce your personºal beliefs. [GMC Fitness to Practice Panel decision on Robert Trossel, Oct 7, 2010]

The BBC has reported that patients paid up to £10,000 or more for stem cell injections, with some raising the money through charity events, and that hundreds of people who traveled to the Netherlands for Trossel's treatment may seek compensation. [MS patients may sue struck-off doctor Robert Trossel. BBC News Health, Sept 29, 2010] Leigh Day & Co Solicitors is investigating whether to file suit.

Sargenti practitioner surrenders dental license. Dominic J. Cicero, D.M.D., who formerly practiced in Phillipsburg, New Jersey has permanently surrendered his New Jersey dental license. The action resulted from a complaint by Claudia Megaro, who sought root canal treatment for a single tooth but was advised to have all of her amalgams fillings removed and replaced. She was also advised to have two other root canal treatments, one in a tooth that was giving her no trouble. During the next two years, she saw Cicero regularly for various procedures but developed persistent, severe pain. In 2004, she filed a lawsuit charging that Cicero had failed to refer her for appropriate medical care for what ultimately turned out to be a severe infection (osteomyelitis) of her jaw bone. After the suit was filed, she discovered that the filling material Cicero used for her root canal treatments was RC-2W, a noxious paste used by practitioners of the Sargenti technique. Megaro also complained to the New Jersey Board of Dentistry, which concluded that his treatment of her constituted "gross and repeated acts of negligence." The lawsuit was settled in 2008 with payment of an undisclosed amount. In 2010, Cicero and the board entered into a consent order under which he agreed to a license surrender (deemed a revocation) and payment of $670.50 for costs of the Board's investigation.

Former Lancet editor accused of cover-up. The British Medical Journal has published a detailed account of the failure of Lancet editor Richard Horton to properly investigate the complaint made by Brian Deer about Dr. Andrew Wakefield's now infamous 1998 article. [Deer B. Secrets of the MMR scare: The Lancet's two days to bury bad news. BMJ 342:c7001, 2011] This is the third article in the BMJ series about Wakefield's misconduct. Casewatch has posted the transcripts from the General Medical Council's hearings that ended with the revocation of Wakefield's medical license.

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