Consumer Health Digest #12-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 29, 2012

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.

AHRQ advises how to reduce medical errors. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has issued a consumer brochure on "20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors." The tips focus on medication use, hospital stays, preparing for surgery, communication with providers, and seeking reliable information. AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program Web site also offers extensive information about treatment options.

California petitions to revoke David Steenblock's probation. The Osteopathic Medical Board of California has filed a petition to revoke the probation of David Steenblock, D.O. In August 2009, the board placed Steenblock on 5 years of probation after concluding that he had prescribed inappropriate hyperbaric oxygen for an elderly stroke patient and done several other things wrong. The petition states that in early 2010, Steenblock had notified the board that he had not complied with his probation terms because he had challenged a an earlier board decision in San Francisco Superior Court and expected the court would stay his probation until the matter was resolved. However, the court did not issue a stay and, even though the Board notified Steenblock that he was required to comply with probation, he did not make reports, enroll in the required continuing education courses, or pay the $25,166.60 for investigative and enforcement costs required under his probation. Casewatch has additional information about Steenblock's entanglement with the Board.

Science-based "CAM" journal offers free access to recent issue. The entire March 2012 issue of Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (FACT) has been posted with free access. The lead editorial explains why biological plausibility should be critical in determining research priorities. It concluded: "In determining if we want to do efficient research, we should focus on those treatments that are already supported by biological plausibility. The danger of not adhering to this strategy is considerable; such as wasting time, money and experience on projects that have very little chance of success. This would not just be uneconomical but also unethical."

"60 Minutes" accuses stem cell seller of fraud. CBS's "60 Minutes" has broadcast a startling undercover investigation of Dan Ecklund, who operates a stem cell laboratory and clinic in Ecuador and sells alleged cell preparations through the Internet. [Stem Cell Fraud: A 60 Minutes investigation. Jan 8, 2012] The investigators videotaped Ecklund making extensive promises to help a boy with cerebral palsy and then met Ecklund in a hotel room in Florida where he arrived expecting to meet the boy. The cells, delivered in advance, were examined by a prominent stem cell researcher at Duke University, who concluded that they were dead and that the debris in the specimen could cause serious problems if injected. The program also revealed that in 2005, Ecklund's license to practice medicine in Alabama was revoked for unprofessional conduct. Documents from the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners state that during the proceedings he admitted (a) prescribing controlled substances to a patient he knew was a dug addict and with whom he was having sex, (b) having sex with his daughter, (c) having sexual experiences with young female children as well as with animals, and (d) touching females without their consent in order to gain sexual gratification. Ecklund has posted an elaborate denial of wrongdoing on his StemTechLabs Web site.

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This page was posted on March 29, 2012.