Consumer Health Digest #12-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 14, 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.

British chelationist disciplined. A British Medical Council Fitness to Practice Panel has concluded that (a) Dr. Jean Anne Monro had administered chelation therapy unnecessarily to a patient after improperly diagnosing lead toxicity with a provoked urine test and that the test alone "has no demonstrated benefit in the diagnosis of lead toxicity." (The proper test is a blood test.) The case was concluded with a formal warning that barred Monro from doing provoked testing or chelation therapy. [Findings of the Fitness to Practice Panel on Dr. Jean Anne Monro. March 21 - April 24, 2012] Monro is medical director of Breakspear Medical Group (formerly called Breakspear Hospital). The group's Web site describes her as "internationally recognised specialist in environmental medicine." Provoked testing, in which the specimen is collected after a chelating agent is administered, artificially and temporarily raises urine levels of heavy metals and does not provide a trustworthy measure of toxicity. In 2009, the American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT) issued a position statement which concluded that provoked testing "has not been scientifically validated, has no demonstrated benefit, and may be harmful when applied in the assessment and treatment of patients in whom there is concern for metal poisoning." Last month, the British Advertising Standards Authority has concluded that the Breakspear Web site had improperly claimed that chelation was effective against cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, autistic spectrum disorders and many other conditions. Monro was not identified in the decision, but the clinic was advised to stop implying any such effectiveness. {ASA adjudication on Breakspear Medical Group. May 16, 2012]

FTC stops bogus health insurance plan. The FTC has halted a telemarketing scam that allegedly tricked consumers who were seeking affordable health insurance into buying worthless medical discount plans. The FTC charged that the defendants had falsely claimed that their program was widely accepted by healthcare providers in consumers' local communities and had failed to honor money-back guarantees. The defendants—Health Care One LLC, three affiliated companies {Americans4Healthcare Inc., Elite Business Solutions, Inc., and Mile High Enterprise Inc.), and their principals (Michael Jay Ellman, Robert Daniel Freeman, and Bryan Matthew Loving)—have agreed to settlements that require them to disgorge certain assets and will bar them from future healthcare-related enterprises or sales. [FTC suit halts bogus health insurance scam. FTC News release, June 14, 2012]

USDA removes misleading antioxidant data. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Data Laboratory has withdrawn the ORAC Database for Selected Foods from its Web site after concluding that it has been used to mislead consumers. [Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 (2010). USDA Agricultural Research Service news release, May 16, 2012] Various antioxidant compounds are theorized to help protect against cancer and other chronic diseases by attacking free radicals that cause them. The ORAC value is one way to measure antioxidant activity, and many supplements are promoted with the claim that high ORAC scores indicate high potency. However, the USDA has concluded:

Excellent lab test database available. ARUP Consult is a free laboratory test-selection tool that provides diagnostic and interpretive information that can be viewed online or downloaded to mobile devices. Updated quarterly, it is maintained by medical experts at the University of Utah School of Medicine and ARUP Laboratories. It is intended primarily for professionals but much of its information is understandable for laypersons.

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This page was posted on June 16, 2012.