Consumer Health Digest #11-14

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 26, 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.

Cholesterol-lowering "dietary supplements" still pose serious problems. has found that tests of eleven red yeast rice supplements revealed large differences in levels of cholesterol-lowering statin compounds. [Red Yeast Rice Supplements Review., May 20, 2011] A potentially toxic contaminant, citrinin, was found in four of the products. Red yeast rice contains the cholesterol-lowering statin compound lovastatin, the active ingredient in prescription Mevacor. Studies have found that red yeast rice can lower cholesterol significantly, but based on the suggested serving sizes of the products, found that only four would deliver a daily dose of lovastatin in the range used in the studies. Among the eleven products in the report, the amounts of lovastatin compounds ranged from 0 mg to 3.5 mg per 600 mg of red yeast rice. The amounts in some products was considerably lower than those found in tests done several years ago. Although lovastatin is a very useful drug, it is not suitable for self-medication because optimal cholesterol-control should be tailored to individual risk factors and be medically monitored. The FDA has ordered at least eight sellers to stop marketing red yeast rice products for cholesterol control, but the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 permits their sale as "dietary supplements." Labels on red yeast rice products generally do not disclose lovastatin content due to concern that the supplement will be considered an unapproved drug by the FDA and removed from the market. This makes it difficult to determine the proper dosage or compare products.

ADA Seal of Acceptance database posted. The American Dental Association has launched an online guide with monographs on more than 300 ADA Seal products for consumers. The seal, which can be displayed in ads and on product labels and packages, signifies that a product meets ADA standards of safety and effectiveness. Participating manufacturers must submit the products for expert evaluation and agree to have their advertising preapproved. Since 1994, this program has been administered by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

Texas chelationist facing new charge. The Texas Medical Board, which in 2010 charged Jesus Caquias, M.D. with caring improperly for four patients, has added a fifth patient for consideration at his forthcoming hearing. The amended complaint states that he used a provoked urine test as the basis for diagnosing heavy metal poisoning and administering EDTA chelation therapy, but doctors who subsequently saw the patient noted that the diagnosis was incorrect. The case description matches that of Ronald Stemp, who is suing Caquias for negligence.

New books attack Autism and antivaccination quackery. During the past few months three excellent books about autism quackery and vaccination opponents have been published:

Anti-vax group crtiqued. Quackwatch has posted notes on the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD), a group "dedicated to reducing the mercury-exposure risks, for the unborn, infants, children, adolescents and adults, from all mercury-containing medical products to which they are, or may be, exposed." Founded and led mainly by Dr. Mark Geier and his son David Geier, CoMeD's main goal has been to to rid the marketplace of all vaccines that contain thimerosal, a preservative that contains trace amounts of mercury. In 2008, the FDA dismissed a CoMeD citizen petition after concluding that its contentions were legally and scientifically unsupportable by either law or science and that the drug products that still contained mercury preservatives were safe. CoMeD then sued, but a U.S. District Court judge concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. CoMeD is appealing the dismissal, but there is no reason to think that its suit is winnable. Meanwhile, the Geiers are facing regulatory action by the Maryland Board of Medicine.

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This page was posted on May 26, 2011.