Consumer Health Digest #13-39

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 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.

Lawsuit alleges kickbacks to chiropractors for MRIs. Illinois Farmers Insurance Company and two subsidiaries have accused Mobile Diagnostic Imaging (MDI) and 46 chiropractors and their clinics of conspiring to order unnecessary MRI tests. [Matos A. Lawsuit accuses MRI company, 46 chiropractors of fraud, kickbacks. Minneapolis StarTribune, Oct 14, 2013] The $1.9 million lawsuit, filed in Minnesota's federal court, states:

Zamboni treatment for multiple sclerosis judged doubtful. A major study to test whether venous narrowing is a cause of multiple sclerosis has found no association between MS and narrowed veins. [Traboulsee AL and others. Prevalence of extracranial venous narrowing on catheter venography in people with multiple sclerosis, their siblings, and unrelated healthy controls: a blinded, case-control study. The Lancet, Oct 9, 2013] In 2006, Italian vascular surgeon Paolo Zamboni proposed that the real cause of MS is something he called chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) and claimed that blocked veins partially reverse blood flow from the brain, creating an iron overload that damages the brain. He subsequently reported finding CCSVI in 100% of MS patients and developed an angioplastic procedure—sometimes called "liberation therapy"—in which veins in the neck or chest are widened by inflating a balloon within them or (rarely) inserting a stent. However, the people who judged whether CCSVI was present knew which patients had MS and which did not. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that the Zamboni procedure was unproven and was associated with reports of death; stroke; detachment and migration of stents; damage to the treated vein; blood clots; cranial nerve damage; and abdominal bleeding. [Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency treatment in multiple sclerosis patients. FDA safety alert, May 12, 2012]

Kevin Trudeau ordered to jail again. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman has ordered infomercial scammer Kevin Trudeau to return to jail until he reveals where he has hidden his assets. But the judge allowed Trudeau to remain free for a few days so he can attend a legal defense funder-raiser. [Janssen K. Infomercial king Kevin Trudeau ordered back to jail. Chicago Sun-Times, Oct 16, 2013] Two weeks ago, Trudeau was jailed for one day to illustrate what will happen if he continues to fail to pay a $37.6 million court-ordered sanction entered against him more than three years ago. Casewatch has background information on Trudeau's history.

"Toxic mold" guru retires. Ritchie Shoemaker, M.D., who specialized in treating patients he diagnosed with mold-related ailments, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Lyme disease, has announced his retirement from clinical practice. The announcement came during disciplinary proceedings by the Maryland State Board of Physicians that ended with a consent order under which Shoemaker was reprimanded and must serve on probation with monitoring if he resumes medical practice. Shoemaker's Web site still offers online testing and consultations and solicits donations for his Center for Research on Biotoxin-Associated Illness, which it says has "a track record unequalled in the field of mold, Lyme and CFS." In 2006, the FDA ordered Shoemaker to stop using an unapproved drug in a research study.

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This page was posted on October 17, 2013.