Consumer Health Digest #13-03

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 17, 2013

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.

IOM concludes that recommended vaccination schedule is safe. In response to a request from the Department of Health and Human Services, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee has (a) reviewed scientific findings and stakeholders concerns related to the safety of the recommended childhood immunization schedule and (b) identified potential research approaches, methodologies and study designs that could further explore existing questions. The committee's report concluded:

The report, Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies, can be read online or downloaded free of charge.

Massachusetts naturopathy bill fails. Governor Deval Patrick has pocket vetoed a bill that would have licensed naturopaths in Massachusetts. S. 2387 would have established a licensing board and defined naturopathic health care as "a system of health care practices for the prevention, evaluation and treatment of illnesses, injuries and conditions of the human body through the use of education, nutrition, natural medicines and therapies and other modalities which are designed to support, stimulate or supplement the human body's own natural self-healing processes." In addition to spinal manipulation, practitioners would have been able to administer or prescribe "natural medicines of mineral, animal or botanical origin, including food products or extracts, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, digestive aids, natural hormones, plant substances, homeopathic preparations, natural antibiotics and topical medicines and nonprescription drugs, therapeutic devices and barrier contraceptives to prevent or treat illnesses, injuries and conditions of the human body." Homeopathic products are worthless, and the vast majority of the non-drug modalities have not been proven effective for their intended purposes. [Barrett S. A close look at naturopathy. Quackwatch, Nov 14, 2012] Because most naturopaths do not support immunization, the bill would have required them to track and document the immunization status of patients under age 18 years refer those who have not been immunized to a physician. Naturopaths are licensed as independent practitioners in 16 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and can also legally practice in a few others. Attorney Jann Bellamy has detailed how S. 2387 sneaked through to passage and why licensing naturopaths is a bad idea.

Nobel Prizewinner warns that antioxidants may cause cancer. Geneticist James Watson, Ph.D., who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, has noted that clinical trials of antioxidant supplements beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium have shown no obvious effectiveness against common cancer and may shorten the life of cancer patients who use them. In a highly technical paper, he says that instead of doing more such trials, future research should focus on innovative anti-metastatic drug development, including drugs that inhibit antioxidant activity. [Watson J. Oxidants, antioxidants and the current incurability of metastatic cancers. Open Biology 3:120144, 2013]

FTC clips pomegranate product marketers. The Federal Trade Commission has upheld and expanded an Administrative Law Judge's decision that marketers of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements (a) deceptively advertised their products and (b) did not have adequate support for claims that their products were effective in preventing or treating heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. In 2010, the FTC had charged the marketers with making false and unsubstantiated claims. [FTC complaint charges deceptive advertising by POM Wonderful: Agency proceedings will determine whether health claims for pomegranate products are false and not supported by scientific evidence. FTC news release, Sept 27, 2010] In 2012, after an Administrative Law Judge sided with the FTC, the marketers appealed to the full Commission. On January 10, 2013, the Commission issued a Final Order barring POM's marketers from making efficacy claims for any food, drug, or supplement that are not supported by randomized, well-controlled, human clinical trials. [FTC Commissioners uphold trial judge decision that POM Wonderful, LLC; Stewart and Lynda Resnick; others deceptively advertised pomegranate products by making unsupported health claims. FTC news release, Jan 16, 2013]

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