Consumer Health Digest #13-33

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 5, 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.

Bills introduced to exempt anti-medical religious groups from mandatory insurance coverage. The recently introduced Equitable Access to Care and Health Act ("EACH ACT") would amend the Internal Revenue Code to permit individuals whose sincerely held religious beliefs cause them to object to medical health care to avoid mandatory coverage requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The House version (H. 1862) has 147 co-sponsors, and the Senate version (S. 862) has 18 co-sponsors. PPACA (often referred to as "Obamacare") inclides a nearly universal mandate to control costs. Christian Science lobbyists assert that their church members should not have to pay for health care that they won't use. However: (a) insurance works on the assumption that many policyholders will not draw from it, (b) almost no one can be certain they will never accept medical care, and (c) these bills increase the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to state governments if the children do get medical care. The proposed law would also undermine enforcement of PPACA because if states rely on an "honor system" of self-reporting, many people will find it convenient to claim a religious exemption to avoid paying premiums and many will wind up getting treated at public expense.

Toftness device distributors sentenced. A federal court has ordered the Toftness Post-Graduate School in Amery, Wisconsin to pay a $50,000 fine and its owner David Ray Toftness, D.C., to pay a $5,000 fine in connection with their conviction for for illegally distributing unapproved diagnostic devices. In the early 1980s, after a lengthy campaign, the FDA obtained court orders banning the sale of Toftness Radiation Detectors and similar devices in interstate commerce and ordering the sellers to notify all buyers to return them. The device, which was developed by David's uncle, Irwing N. Toftness, D.C. (1909-1990), is a hand-held instrument that supposedly focused low-level radiation emitted from the body that the chiropractor could detect while rubbing his fingers on the detection plate. Rubbing hard would produce "crackling" sounds that supposedly identified areas of "nerve interference" (subluxations) treatable by very-low-force spinal "adjustments." In 2005, the FDA discovered that David and the school were still shipping violative devices. In 2007, the agency conducted a search during which 96 instruments were seized. In 2013, David and the school were charged and pleaded guilty to shipping unapproved devices in interstate commerce. Chirobase has additional background information and links to relevant documents.

British ad regulators nix Chinese medicine claims. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Zheng Jin to stop using the title "Dr." on his Web site and stop advertising that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can treat dozens of serious medical conditions. The ASA concluded that documents Jin submitted in response to a complaint did not substantiate his medical claims and that credentials he obtained in China were inadequate to practice in the UK without registry (approval) by the British General Medical Council. Jin's site still claims:

Acupuncture is effective in treating most ailments presented at a GP's surgery. It is especially valuable in chronic diseases that orthodox medicine can only alleviate with drugs. For example, asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, hypertension, depression; painful conditions anywhere in the body such as headache, migraine, arthritis, back pain; stiffness of joints or muscles. Many acute complaints can be treated including strains and sprains, shingles, cystitis, menstrual disorders, diarrhoea and vomiting, coughs, colds and sore throats.

Acupuncture also recognises and treats many disharmonies that have no medical diagnosis, a non-specific 'not quite right' feeling characterized by any of the following: tiredness, lethargy, vague aches and pains, digestive problems, difficulty in sleeping, anxiety, tension, palpitations or dizziness. People with addictions to smoking, drugs or alcohol may be helped by acupuncture to reduce their dependencies. In addition to the above many other disorders have been treated with success and it is always worth enquiring about any particular problem you might have.

New Steenblock associate has lengthy regulatory history. Alexander Thermos, D.C., D.O. joined the staff of the Steenblock clinic in February, shortly before the clinic's owner, David Steenblock, D.O., was scheduled to begin a 60-day license suspension. The clinic Web site describes Thermos as an "expert on the clinical use of stem cells." The clinic also features hyperbaric oxygen treatment for strokes and various other conditions for which it has not been proven effective. Thermos's regulatory problems began in 1997 when the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services disciplined him for prescribing controlled substances after his controlled substances registration had expired. In 1999, after he had applied for a license in Colorado, the Colorado board granted his license but entered into a stipulation under which he agreed to be placed on probation for five years. In 2007, the Colorado board warned Thermos that it had received complaints that he had "consistently refused" to provide a number of his patents with a copy of their medical records and that he was required to do so. In 2011, to settle various charges, Thermos agreed to relinquish his Colorado osteopathic medical license. The stipulation document indicates that (a) from 2003 through 2008, he treated a young woman with excessive amounts of tranquilizers and narcotic painkilling drugs, and (b) he failed to document objective findings for diagnosing the patient with interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, and chronic abdominal pain. The agreement states that after two years he can apply for reinstatement provided that the Colorado Physician's Health Program clears him as safe to continue practice. Thermos acquired a California license in 2009 and subsequently worked at various clinics that offer a range of nonstandard methods. In 2013, based on Colorado's action, the Osteopathic Medical Board of California issued a stipulated settlement and disciplinary order under which he agreed to (a) pay $4,016 for costs, (b) serve five years on probation, (c) take courses in pharmacology and medical ethics, (d) take extensive clinical training, and (e) complete a professional enhancement program. The relevant disciplinary documents are posted to Casewatch.

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