Consumer Health Digest #12-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 30 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.

Mark Geier's license revoked. The Maryland State Board of Physicians has revoked the medical license of Mark R. Geier, M.D., Ph.D. The revocation order states that Geier had committed unprofessional conduct in his management of several patients. In some cases, 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. In other cases, he administered inappropriate chelation therapy. The board noted:

Dr. Geier has displayed in this case an almost total disregard of basic medical and ethical standards by treating patients without properly examining or diagnosing them, continuing treatment without properly evaluating its effectiveness, and providing "informed consent" forms that were misleading and in at least ne case blatantly false. . . . His actions toward his patients were not those of an honest and competent physician, nor do they appear to be those of an objective and ethical researcher. At the same time, he profited greatly from the minimal efforts he made for these patients. In plain words, Dr. Geier exploited these patients under the guise of providing competent treatment. . . . The Board has no hesitation in revoking his license.

Geier and his son David have been operating ASD Centers, 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)." He has also been a consultant and expert witness in many cases presented to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and in civil litigation. In publications and testimony, he improperly claimed that the thimerosal in vaccines is a cause of autism. Last month the Maryland Board fined David $10,000 after concluding that he had been practicing medicine without a license.

Jonathan Wright facing disciplinary action. The Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission has charged Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. with unprofessional conduct for (a) permitting an unlicensed physician (Roby Mitchell) to practice in his office and (b) failing to cooperate with an investigation. The complaint notes that in 2010, after receiving a complaint, the Commission asked Wright to furnish a sample of medical records of patients that Mitchell had seen in Wright's clinic, but Wright redacted so much that the records were uninterpretable. In 2003, the Texas Medical Board concluded that Mitchell had improperly treated eight patients for alleged thyroid conditions and placed him on probation with restrictions that included monitoring of his work. In 2005, after concluding that he had refused to be monitored, the board revoked his license. In 2011 and in May 2012, the board concluded that Mitchell had continued to engage in activities that constituted medical practice and ordered him to stop them. Mitchell's Web site states that he "no longer practices medicine,"but it identifies him as an M.D. who practices "Preventive & Nutritional Medicine."and invites new clients to make appointments at his Texas office or be interviewed via Skype. Wright operates the Tahoma Clinic in Renton, Washington. The clinic site describes him as "a for-runner in research and application of natural treatments for healthy aging and illness" who "has taught natural biochemical medical treatments since 1983 to thousands of physicians in the USA, Europe, and Japan."

Rashid Buttar ordered to repay large loan. In July 2011, a federal court judge ordered Rashid Buttar, D.O. to pay the U.S. Government $2,120,137.27 plus $323.02 daily interest from July 27, 2010 onward. Documents in the case indicate that Buttar defaulted on the $2 million loan he obtained in 2008 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to build a new medical office. Buttar is chairman of the American Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology, whose members are prone to claim that "heavy metal toxicity" is an underlying cause of heart disease, autism, and many other diseases, including cancer.

More ayurvedic herbal products found to contain lead. Public health officials have reported six cases of lead poisoning among foreign-born women who took ayurvedic herbal products imported from India. Since 2004, 22 such products have been found to contain potentially toxic amounts of lead. [Lead poisoning in pregnant women who used ayurvedic medications from India—New York City, 2011-2012. MMWR 61:641-646, 2012] In 2003, a survey of ayurvedic herbal products manufactured in South Asia and sold in Boston-area stores found that 14 of 70 products (20%) contained concentrations of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic that—if the products were taken according to directions—would exceed published regulatory standards. The authors also noted that ayurvedic theory attributes important therapeutic roles to mercury and lead and that perhaps 35-40% of medicines in the Ayurvedic formulary contain at least one metal. [Saper RB and others. Heavy metal content of ayurvedic herbal medicine products. JAMA 292:2868-2873, 2004] In another study published in 2008, researchers who tested 193 ayurvedic products randomly selected from 25 Web sites found that one fifth of them contained heavy metals in amounts that exceeded standards for acceptable daily intake. [Saper RB and others. Lead, mercury, and arsenic in US- and Indian-manufactured ayurvedic medicines sold via the Internet. JAMA 300:915-923, 2008] Several studies done in other countries have had similar findings.

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This page was revised on August 30, 2012.