Consumer Health Digest #12-34

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 4, 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.

Romney campaign embraces Lyme quackery. Mitt Romney's campaign has distributed a flyer in Northern Virginia pledging to fight Lyme disease, which it describes as a "massive epidemic threatening Virginia." This strategy is intended to appeal to voters by (a) scaring recipients into thinking that they and their families need increased government efforts to protect them from an imminent threat and (b) appealing to activists who promote the dubious concept of "chronic Lyme disease." Several doctors who market themselves as "Lyme specialists" have been disciplined by state medical board for unprofessional conduct. The Romney flier advocates providing "local physicians with protection from lawsuits to ensure they can treat the disease with the aggressive antibiotics that are required." Romney's interest appears to have been aroused by contact with Michael Farris, a prominent conservative who believes that his wife and seven children all suffer from chronic Lyme disease. The wife's doctor reportedly is Joseph Jemsek, M.D., who, in 2009, moved his practice to Washington, D.C. following disciplinary action by the North Carolina Medical Board. The flyer and links to related information are posted on Quackwatch.

Vitamin D supplementation fails to prevent colds. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial has found that that monthly administration of 100,000 IU of vitamin D did not influence the incidence or severity of upper respiratory infections in healthy adults. The study included 320 healthy adults who received either a placebo or 200,000 IU for two months and 100,000 IU for 16 more months. [Murdoch DR and others. Effect of vitamin D3 supplementation on upper respiratory tract infections in healthy adults: the VIDARIS randomized controlled trial. JAMA 308:1333-1339, 2012] The full text can be accessed online without charge. An accompanying editorial notes that Cochrane Collaboration reviews have concluded that (a) Echinacea, zinc, steam inhalation, vitamin C, garlic, antihistamines, Chinese medicinal herbs, intranasal corticosteroids, intranasal ipratroprium, Pelargonium sidoides herbal extract, saline nasal irrigation, increasing fluid intake, and antivirals are all ineffective, have questionable benefit, or are associated with significant adverse effects and (b) antibiotics are ineffective and costly, promote resistant bacteria, and expose patients to adverse drug events. [Linder J. Vitamin D and the cure for the common cold. JAMA 308:1375-1376, 2012]

Quantum quackery criticized. Physicist Lawrence Krauss has warned that health-related claims that invoke quantum mechanics should be regarded as pseudoscientific. In a recent interview, he stated:

[Boyle A. How to spot quantum quackery. Cosmic Log, Sept 20, 2012]

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