Consumer Health Digest #13-32

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 29, 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.

Anti-fluoridation petition denied. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied a petition to change the chemical used to adjust the concentration of fluoride in community water supplies. The petition, submitted in May 2013, asked the EPA to require the use of pharmaceutical-grade sodium fluoride (NaF) in water fluoridation. The current source of fluoride in most public water supplies is fluorosilicic acid, a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer manufacturing. The petition claimed that HFSA leads to the contamination of drinking water with arsenic, lead, and radionuclides and that NaF would be safer and more cost-effective. However the EPA noted that the petitioners miscalculated net benefits for pharmaceutical grade NaF compared to HFSA by a factor of 70 and that the actual cost of making the switch would be prohibitive. The petition was headed by William Hirzy, Ph.D., a long-time anti-fluoridation actiuvist who worked for the EPA for 27 years, taught chemistry at American University for five years, and recently was hired as a lobbyist by the Fluoride Action Network, the most aggressive anti-fluoridation organization.

Quackery infiltrating medical education. The Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, launched in 1999, has grown to about 50 medical and health profession schools in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that have established fellowships and other integrative medicine programs. [Sierpine VS, Dalen JE. The future of integrative medicine. American Journal of Medicine 126:661-662, 2013] The Consortium defines integrative medicine as "the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing." However, standard medical care has all of these attributes and many "integrative" programs and the Web sites of "integrative" practitioners embrace a wide range of implausible methods. David Gorski, M.D. and Steven Salzberg, Ph.D., have written penetrating analyses about the infiltration of quack nonsense into medical education and the use of labels such as "holistic," "complementary," and "integrative" in an attempt to look respectable.

David Steenblock disciplined again. David A. Steenblock, D.O., who describes himself as an "integrative medicine" practitioner and operates a clinic in Mission Viejo, California, has been disciplined again by the California Osteopathic Medical Board. His clinic Web site describes him as the "Number One Leading Expert in Stem Cell Therapies in the United States" and states that the clinic "gives the maximum amount of recovery possible for stroke and traumatic brain injury." In August 2009, the board concluded that Steenblock had engaged in gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, and excessive prescribing of treatment and had failed to maintain adequate records in connection with charging a 77-year-old stroke patient more than $26,000 for services that included 87 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen, 84 physical therapy treatments, 20 intravenous treatments, and 8 testosterone injections. In 2009, he was placed on probation for five years, ordered to take courses in medical ethics and record keeping, and assessed $25,166.60 for the cost of investigation and enforcement. In 2011, the board filed a petition to revoke his probation for failing to comply with these provisions. In March 2013, the board suspended his license for 60 days, extended his probation for five more years, and ordered him to comply with the previous order. Steenblock was also disciplined in 1991 and 1997. Quackwatch has an article describing his activities with links to the regulatory documents.

IPT practitioner placed on probation. In 2012, Juergen Winkler, M.D., another self-described "integrative medicine" practitioner who operates Quantum Functional Medicine in Carlsbad, California, was placed on probation for three years and ordered to enroll in an ethics course and a clinical evaluation and training program. He was also prohibited from making or disseminating false or misleading statements about insulin potentiation therapy (IPT). The accusation stated that Winkler had described IPT as a way to administer standard chemotherapeutic drugs at much lower doses so that patients do not suffer severe side effects. However, IPT has not been proven safe or effective, and the board concluded that the drugs and dosages Winkler had administered to five cancer patients were inappropriate. This was the second time Winkler was disciplined. In 1999, he was accused of helping an unlicensed practitioner (Ravi Devgan, M.D.) treat six patients with advanced cancer and failing to maintain adequate records of what he did. The charges were settled with a stipulation under which Winkler was reprimanded, ordered to complete a medical record-keeping course and charged $2,907 for the cost of the proceedings. (Devgan, who practiced mainly in Canada, was disciplined several times and in 2003 had his license revoked for exploiting and inappropriately treating cancer patients.)

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This page was revised on August 31, 2013.