Consumer Health Digest #13-13

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 28, 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.

Oz airs irresponsible attack on amalgam. The Dr. Oz Show has broadcast unfounded claims that amalgam fillings are dangerous. The program featured appearances by two mercury-free dentists, a woman who claimed to have suffered from amalgam toxicity, and a demonstration purporting to show that brushing the teeth releases toxic levels of mercury vapor within the mouth. During the demonstration, Oz reached into a sealed box to brush the teeth of a mouth model that contained amalgam fillings and an instrument detected mercury vapor within the box. The show mentioned the American Dental Association's viewpoint but denied the group's offer to provide credible experts for the the discussion. [American Dental Association objects to The Doctor Oz Show segment on dental amalgam. ADA news release, March 28, 2013] Following the broadcast, the ADA Web site noted:

Major health and scientific bodies around the world agree that, based on extensive scientific evidence, amalgam is safe and effective for dental patients. But Oz's program suggested that new amalgam fillings should be avoided and that tens of millions of Americans who have them are at risk and should discuss their situation with their dentist. The participants also advised people with amalgams to avoid eating "acid" foods such as grapefruit and tomatoes.

Amalgam use has been declining, partly because of unfounded attacks and partly because white composite fillings are more cosmetically acceptable. The Dr. Oz Show too often provides a platform for unscientific viewpoints (including anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation) and promotes useless products. A sentence-by-sentence analysis of the anti-amalgam program will be posted to Dental Watch as soon as possible.

"Lyme specialist" surrenders medical license. Carol Ann Ryser, M.D.,who operates Health Centers of America (HCA) in Kansas City, Missouri, has surrendered her medical license and must shut down the clinic. These pledges were part of joint agreements under which she and her husband Michael pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion. The HCA Web site states that the clinic is "dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses" and provides an "integrated approach" that combines traditional and alternative medicine. Although Dr. Ryser is board-certified in pediatrics, HCA's main focus appears to be on diagnosing and treating "chronic Lyme disease" with long-term antibiotics, an approach criticized by the Infectious Disease Society of America. The Missouri Courts case register indicates that since 1997, Ryser and/or HCA were listed as a defendant in more than 35 cases and that she and/or HCA had 16 judgments recorded against them. Eighteen of the suits were malpractice actions filed between August 2005 and April 2012. An ongoing malpractice suit alleges that she (a) diagnosed a woman with Lyme disease, hypercoagulation, lupus symptoms, beta strep, infections, and other disorders, (b) told her that she had "bugs' living in her "biofilm," and (c) used inappropriate lab tests to persuade her that she had diseases and health problems that she did not actually have. Dr. Ryser's plea agreement bars her from ever practicing again or owning or working in any capacity for any health care provider. The agreements also include payment of $51,789 in restitution and recommended sentences of 24-30 months of imprisonment for Michael and 6 months of home detention followed by 30 months of probation for Carol. Quackwatch has additional information and document links.

GAO finds that adverse supplement data are incomplete. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has concluded that data on adverse reactions to herbal and dietary supplement products are incomplete because neither consumers nor poison control centers are systematically reporting them to the Food and Drug Administration. [Dietary supplements: FDA may have opportunities to expand its use of reported health problems to oversee products. Report No GAO-13-244, March 2013] From 2008 through 2011, the FDA received more than 6,000 reports, 71% of which were serious adverse event reports required by law. During the same period, poison control centers received over 1,000 more adverse reports than did the FDA. FDA officials have expressed interest in determining whether the poison center data could be useful for their analysis and have held discussions with American Association of Poison Control Centers representatives, but the cost of obtaining the data is a factor.

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This page was revised on April 1, 2013.