Consumer Health Digest #12-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 6, 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.

No evidence that chelation helps autism. A systematic review of published reports about chelation for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has identified six reports, all inadequately designed, and concluded:

Departing Congressman takes parting shot at vaccination. U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who is retiring from Congress this year, has held his 21st and final hearing on the subject of autism. Burton, who became interested in the subject after his grandson became autistic, has used most of these hearings to promote discredited beliefs, express doubts about vaccination safety, and harass government officials who did not agree with him. This week's hearing included a diatribe from minute 12:48 to minute 18:06, during which Burton restated his firm belief that mercury in vaccines is a contributing factor to neurological diseases such as autism and that it accumulates in the brain because "the brain tissues do not chelate it." Steven Salzberg, M.D., has written a brilliant critique of the hearing.

Inspector General expresses concern about dietary supplement regulation. The U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has expressed concern that claims for dietary supplements are not sufficiently regulated. After reviewing the "structure/function" claims for a sample of 127 dietary supplements marketed for weight loss or immune system support, the investigators (a) evaluated the extent to which they complied with FDA regulations, (b) reviewed substantiation provided by manufacturers, and (c) assessed the accuracy and completeness of notification letters that manufacturers must submit to FDA. [Dietary supplements: Structure/function claims fail to meet federal requirements. OIG report OEI-01-11-00210, October 2012]

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 allows dietary supplements to bear "statements of support" that: (a) claim a benefit related to classical nutrient deficiency disease; (b) describe how ingredients affect the structure or function of the human body; (c) characterize the documented mechanism by which the ingredients act to maintain structure or function; and (d) describe general well-being from consumption of the ingredients. Under this law, manufacturers can make "truthful and not misleading" claims that products can affect body structure or function, but they are but not permitted to claim that products can prevent or treat any disease. The OIG investigators concluded:

The OIG report does not mention that DSHEA was enacted to undermine FDA regulation and that optimal public protection cannot occur unless it is repealed. [Barrett S. How the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act weakened the FDA. Quackwatch, Feb 7, 2007]

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This page was revised on December 8, 2012.