Consumer Health Digest #13-28

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 18, 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.

U.S. drug sellers seeking to block access to legitimate foreign pharmacies. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is seeking to control the proposed registry of ".pharmacy." domain names. Its goal is to create a marketplace where only websites that end in ".pharmacy" are considered legitimate. Such control would harm consumers by excluding legitimate foreign pharmacies that offer drugs to Americans at prices below those in United States. NABP's application is funded by major U.S. drug companies, and its executive committee includes executives of large chain pharmacies. These industries have lobbied vigorously against personal drug importation and pressured the White House to dissuade consumers from buying medication outside the United States. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the quality of medications produced outside of the United States. However, and several other sites and agencies are able to identify trustworthy sources. The RxRights Web site has additional information and an online petition to urge ICANN not to permit NABP to gain control of Internet pharmacy domain registration. (Everyone interested in lowering prescription drug prices in the United States sign the petition.)

Senate holds hearing on robocall scams. The Senate Committee on Commerce has held a hearing on the problem of fraudulent telephone solicitations through Web sites that broadcast huge numbers of calls. Such calls not only inconvenience consumers but also burden agencies that provide emergency services to the public. During the last decade, the FCC has issued more than 500 citations and taken approximately 10 penalty-related actions for violations of its robocall rules. In addition there have been more than 500 citations and approximately 20 penalty-related actions for other do-not-call telemarketing violations. Documents presented at the hearing describe the nature and complexity of the problem and what government agencies are trying to do about it.

Slate trashes NY Times report on "chronic Lyme" disease. Slate Magazine has published a superb critique of Jane Brody's recent article "When Lyme disease lasts and lasts." Lyme disease infections are easily cured by 2 to 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment. However, a small network of physicians and their patients have been barraging the public with misinformation, dire personal stories, and exaggerated claims about thousands of people being maimed, killed, and bankrupted each year by Lyme disease. They incorrectly assert that Lyme is a deadly, chronic disease that requires long-term antibiotic therapy even though clinical trial evidence shows no advantage over placebo treatment. The Slate article aptly notes:

When it comes to antibiotic treatment, Brody again attempts to teach the controversy, with misleading effects. She acknowledges that research on long-term antibiotic therapy for chronic Lyme has shown "little or no benefit," yet she goes on to speculate about why antibiotics seem to work for some people. She proposes three possibilities: No. 1, antibiotics have anti-inflammatory effects that alleviate symptoms; No. 2, patients have a persistent yet undetectable infection; and No. 3, the placebo effect. That's a bit like saying there are three possible explanations for an apple falling on your head, and one of them is gravity. [Palmer B. The New York Times teaches the controversy. Slate, July 16, 2013]

Dr. Stephen Barrett has asked Brody to write a corrective follow-up article.

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This page was posted on July 18, 2013.