Consumer Health Digest #11-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 7, 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.

Two more states suspend Mark Geier's license. The states of Virginia and Washington have suspended the medical license of Mark R. Geier, M.D. In April, the Maryland State Board of Physicians issued an emergency suspension order which stated Geier had misrepresented his credentials, operated an institutional review board that did not meet state and federal regulations, and rendered substandard care to nine patients with autism. In six of the patients, the board charged, 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. Shortly afterward, following a hearing, the Board issued formal charges against him and also charged his son David Geier with practicing medicine without a license. Dr. Geier has appealed the Board's decision. Other states where Geier is licensed have taken no public action as yet. The Geiers have been operating 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)." Quackwatch has received credible information that Geier is furnishing medical services through at least one of these clinics by interviewing parents via Skype, ordering tests, and prescribing treatment.

Skin cream manufacturer settles FTC charges. Beiersdorf, Inc. has signed a consent agreement under which it will pay $900,000 and stop claiming that using its Nivea My Silhouette! skin cream can significantly reduce the user's body size. The FTC's administrative complaint charged Beiersdorf with falsely claiming that consumers could slim down by regularly applying Nivea My Silhouette! cream to their skin. Beiersdorf touted the cream's "Bio-slim Complex," a combination of ingredients that includes anise and white tea. The proposed settlement (a) bars Beiersdorf from making unsubstantiated claims that any product applied to the skin causes substantial weight or fat loss or a substantial reduction in body size and (b) requires that any claim about health benefits of any drug, dietary supplement, or cosmetic be backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The FTC advises consumers to be suspicious of any claim that body size can be significantly reduced by applying a cream. [FTC settlement prohibits marketer from claiming that Nivea Skin Cream can help consumers slim down. FTC news release, June 29, 2011]

Pediatric group discourages use of "sports drinks" and "energy drinks." The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a clinical report intended to discourage consumption of "sports drinks" and "energy drinks" by children and adolescents. Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes, and flavoring, are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost during exercise. Energy drinks include caffeine or other stimulant substances. The AAP believes:

[Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Clinical report—Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics 127:1182-1189, 2011]

Parents in Oregon faith healing case get jail sentences. Timothy and Rebecca Wyland have been sentenced to 90 days in jail for using faith healing instead of seeking medical care for their infant daughter Aylana. During early infancy, Aylana developed a hemangioma (noncancerous blood vessel tumor) that became so large that it engulfed her left eye, leaving her on the verge of blindness. She has since improved under court-ordered care. In June a jury convicted the Wylands of first-degree criminal mistreatment. The couple belong to the Followers of Christ, an Oregon City church that practices faith healing and rejects doctors. [Mays S. Rebecca and Timothy Wyland sentenced to 90 days in jail, probation in Oregon City faith healing. The Oregonian, June 24, 2011] The Wylands are the fourth and fifth members of their church to be convicted in the past two years of crimes involving medical neglect of children, two of whom died in 2008. Largely in response to these deaths, Oregon has enacted a law that expands the criminal charges that can be brought against parents whose children died because they were treated solely with faith healing.

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