Consumer Health Digest #12-18

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 24, 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.

Article reports on homeopathy-related deaths. Ian Freckelton, a prominent Australian barrister who edits the Journal of Law and Medicine, has written a scholarly account of the history, risks, and current legal status of homeopathy in several countries. [Freckelton I. Death by homeopathy: Issues for Civil, criminal and coronial law and for health service policy. Journal of Law and Medicine 19:454-478, 2012] The article includes details about several people who died because they relied on homeopathic treatment rather than responsible treatment. One such case was that of Penelope Dingle, an Australian woman who died in 2005 as a result of the complications of metastatic bowel cancer. According to the coroner's report, Mrs. Dingle experienced blood in her stools in 2001, at which time her prognosis with standard treatment would have been good. But she relied on treatment by a homeopath and two renegade physicians and did not seek appropriate medical treatment until she was near death.

MLM analyses available. Jon Taylor, Ph.D., MBA, who has analyzed the financial offerings of more than 400 multilevel companies, offers a free book and many other reports on his MLM-the-Truth Web site. He also offers a free newsletter that is published about six times a year. Taylor believes that the entire MLM industry in fundamentally flawed and 99% of participants actually lose money.

Web site warns of supplement risks. The United States Anti-Doping Agency has launched the Supplement 411 Web site to warn about the danger of dietary supplements marketed to athletes. The site features the stories of prominent athletes who were disqualified from competition after illegal substances (originating from supplements) were found in their urine. The site also reports news about supplement hazards.

FDA warns against "liberation therapy" for MS. The FDA has warned that "liberation therapy" (also called liberation procedure) is unproven and unsafe. The procedure, in which balloon angioplasty devices or stents are used to widen narrowed veins in the chest and neck, is based on the unproven idea that a narrowing of veins in the neck and chest—referred to as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI)—may cause MS or contribute its progression by impairing blood drainage from the brain and upper spinal cord. However, studies exploring a link between MS and CCSVI are inconclusive, and the criteria used to diagnose CCSVI have not been adequately established. The FDA warning was generated by reports of death, stroke, detachment and migration of the stents, damage to the treated vein, blood clots, cranial nerve damage and abdominal bleeding associated with the procedure. [FDA issues alert on potential dangers of unproven treatment for multiple sclerosis. FDA news release, May 10, 2012]

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This page was revised on May 27, 2012.