Consumer Health Digest #11-32

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 29, 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.

Homeopathic "cancer specialist" disciplined. Jarir Nakouzi, M.D., who purported to treat cancer with homeopathic products, has signed a consent order under which he agreed to (a) pay $5,000, (b) stop using devices that measure skin resistance for diagnostic or treatment purposes, (c) stop making unsubstantiated claims that refrain from recommending, prescribing, or administering any alleged cancer treatment that lacks FDA approval or scientific support, and (d), serve probation for two years, during which at least 20 of his patient charts will be subject to random review by a supervisor acceptable to the Connecticut Department of Health. The agreement settled charges related to Nakouzi's treatment of a patient who had received standard treatment for breast cancer but was terminally ill. Nakouzi treated her for twelve weeks beginning in October 2002. The cost totaled more than $41,000, which included about $8,500 for diagnosis and treatment with a bogus electrical device. Nakouzi is not board certified but says he took a three-year fellowship in oncology after graduating from medical school in Italy. The complaint, filed last year, had charged that Nakouzi deviated from the standard of care by failing to get adequate informed consent, failing to maintain adequate documentation, and using a bioresonance device as a diagnostic technique. Thousands of practitioners (mostly chiropractors) are using bogus electrical devices to diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and conditions. Although the FDA has issues a few warning letters and a few state agencies have taken regulatory action, no systematic effort has been made to drive them from the marketplace. [Barrett S. Regulatory actions related to EAV devices. Quackwatch, Oct 1, 2011]

Recent studies cast doubt on saw palmetto. Saw palmetto fruit extracts are widely used for treating symptoms attributed to benign prostatic enlargement. However, recent trials suggest that it is not effective. About ten years ago, a Cochrane meta-analysis concluded that saw palmetto significantly reduced nocturia (getting up at night to urinate) and improved the ability to urinate (peak urine flow). However, better designed studies done since that time have found little or no benefit. In 2009, an updated Cochrane review included nine new trials and concluded that saw palmetto abstract was no more effective that placebo. [Tacklind J and others. Serenoa repens for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, April 15, 2009] The largest of the new studies followed 225 men aged 50 years or older who received either 320 mg per day of saw palmetto or a placebo. A more recent study of 369 men who received higher doses or a placebo also found no benefit. [Barry MJ and others. Effect of increasing doses of saw palmetto extract on lower urinary tract symptoms: A randomized trial. JAMA 306:1344-1351, 2011]

Plastic surgeons warn against unsubstantiated stem cell treatments. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery have jointly issued a position statement warning against the use of stem cell procedures for cosmetic purposes. [Joint ASPS & ASAPS position statement: Stem cells and fat grafting. American Society of Plastic Surgeons/American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, May 2011] The statement warns:

Last year, the Los Angeles Times has described how two surgeons used liposuction to collect fat from the patient, separate and concentrate the stem cells, add them back to the fat, and inject the stem cell-enriched fat into locations on the patient's face. But the chairman of the ASPS/ASAPS position paper task force said that (a) nobody really knows how the stem cells themselves are behaving, (b) fat injections alone can improve a person's appearance (no stem cells are needed), and (c) long-term effects of the procedures are unknown. [Woolston C. Stem cell face-lifts on unproven ground: Though surgeons claim their patients note younger skin, scientists say there's no evidence of any such thing. Los Angeles Times, Sept 13, 2010] Google searches for "stem cell facelift" and "stem cell breast augmentation" yield hundreds of thousands of links.

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This page was posted on October 2, 2011.