Consumer Health Digest #14-06
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 16, 2014
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.
Key Obamacare provisions take effect. Despite all the controversy, on January 1st, four highly significant provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect:
- Extension of the "guaranteed issue" provision to all individual health insurance policies inclusive of the elimination of "medical underwriting" in the face of a preexisting condition.
- Implementation of the "individual shared responsibility" provision also known as the "individual mandate."
- Provision of tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies to middle- and lower-income adults for the purchase of individual health insurance.
- Expansion of Medicaid coverage in participating states to include previously ineligible low-income adults. (So far, only half the states have agreed to participate.)
Taken together, these provisions will make insurance coverage available to millions of Americans who could not previously afford it. Writing in JAMA, two physicians opine that "no single date stands out as more consequential for the health and well-being of the US public." [McDonough JE, Adashi E. Realizing the promise of the Affordable Care Act—January 1, 2014. JAMA 311:569-570, 2014]
Elderly stem cell scammer gets long prison sentence. Alfred Sapse, an 87-year-old unlicensed physician, has been sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution for heading a stem cell scam in Las Vegas. [Man sentenced to 17-1/2 years in prison in phony stem cell case. U.S. Justice Dept. press release, Sept 24, 2013] In November 2012, following a four-week jury trial, Sapse and Ralph Conti, M.D. of Henderson, Nevada, were convicted of conspiracy and fraud. Evidence in the case indicated:
- Sapse claimed to be a retired foreign physician but was never licensed to practice medicine in the United States.
- In 2005, Sapse hired Conti, a pediatrician with no prior stem cell training, to perform procedures in which portions of placental tissue were implanted into the abdomen of the patients for the treatment of their diseases.
- Sapse targeted extremely sick patients, by claiming that his "proprietary" procedure was especially effective against multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and retinitis pigmentosa (a disease of the retina that can cause blindness).
- Sapse also claimed to be doing legitimate research and set up a corporation called Stem Cell Pharma to give the appearance of running a legitimate drug company.
- At Sapse's direction, between approximately February and November 2006, Conti performed procedures on approximately 34 patients in Las Vegas, knowing that they would not benefit the patients. At least two patients subsequently developed infections.
- In November 2006, the FDA sent Conti a warning letter explaining that their procedure violated federal law, but after that date Conti performed at least one more implant and Sapse coordinated the implantation of a least two more patients.
- In about February 2007, Sapse relocated his fraudulent scheme to Mexico and entered into an arrangement with a Mexican physician in Nuevo Progresso, Mexico, to perform his implant procedure. At Sapse's direction, the Mexican physician performed the implant procedure on approximately 100 patients between approximately February 2007 and May 2010 in Mexico.
Conti died soon after the conviction after undergoing a medical procedure unrelated to the case . Quackwatch has additional details.
Medical Letter has excellent blog.. The highly respected Medical Letter for Drugs and Therapeutics publishes a blog that is accessible free of charge. It it written primarily for health professionals, but many of its articles are readily understandable by others. Its timely topics include electronic cigarettes, antihistamines for colds, the new lipid-lowering drug guidelines, and FDA warnings about dietary supplements for weight loss.
This page was posted on February 17, 2014.