Consumer Health Digest #11-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 5, 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.

Lupron peddler's license suspended. The Maryland State Board of Physicians has summarily suspended the license of Mark R. Geier, M.D. The emergency suspension order states that he misrepresented his credentials, operated an institutional review board that did not meet state and federal regulations, and rendered substandard care to nine autistic patients. In six of the patients, the board charges, he inappropriately diagnosed precocious puberty (a rare condition) and administered Lupron, a drug that reduces the body's production of the male hormone testosterone and is used to castrate sex offenders. In three of the patients, he administered inappropriate chelation therapy. Geier has been operating under the name ASD Centers LLC, a chain of clinics that advertises "a new combined genetic, biochemical, heavy metal, and hormonal evaluation/treatment for patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)." The advertising also asserts that evaluations of more than 600 ASD patients have revealed that most have symptoms and laboratory results consistent with high levels of male hormones. Several experts have denounced Geier's use of Lupron to treat autistic children. [Tsouderos T. 'Miracle drug' called junk science: Powerful castration drug pushed for autistic children, but medical experts denounce unproven claims. Chicago Tribune, May 21, 2009] Questions are also being raised about whether Mark's son and collaborator, David Geier, whose activities are mentioned in the suspension document, should be permitted to remain on Maryland's Autism Commission.

BBB warns against charities associated with deceptive sweepstakes notices. The St. Louis Better Business Bureau has advised consumers to be "cautious" about donating to seven St. Louis-area charities that have used Precision Performance Marketing to help them run similar fundraising sweepstakes across the U.S. [BBB: Consumers should think twice about donating to 7 charities tied to St. Louis area sweepstakes firm. St. Louis BBB, Feb 22, 2011] The BBB report says that (a) the mailings make it seem they already had won or are on the brink of winning cash prizes and that (b) annual 990 tax reports show that several of the charities have spent a high percentage of their contributions on fundraising. The charities identified in the BBB report are:

Supplement mixture fails to prevent prostate cancer. A randomized, double-blind study has found that consuming daily doses of soy (40 g), vitamin E (800 IU), and selenium (200 µg) did not benefit men who were at higher risk of developing invasive prostate cancer. The study involved 303 Canadian men with a precancerous condition (high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia) who took either the supplement or a whey-based placebo powder for 3 years. Repeated biopsies showed that about 26% in each group developed the invasive cancer. [Fleshner NE and others. Progression from high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia to cancer: A randomized trial of combination vitamin-E, soy, and selenium. Journal of Clinical Oncology 32.0994, 2011]

Skeptics program in Berkeley, California scheduled for Memorial Day. On Sunday May 29th, the Northern California Skeptics will host an inexpensive day-long program with 12 speakers who examine a broad range of pseudoscientific and paranormal claims. The group's Web site has details and a registration page.

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This page was posted on May 8, 2011.