Consumer Health Digest #14-26
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 20, 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.
Burzynski associate facing disciplinary action. The Texas Medical Board has accused Zanhua Yi, M.D. of violating the Medical Practice Act in connection with managing a patient who had metastatic kidney cancer. The board's complaint alleges that Yi ordered unnecessary laboratory tests, exposed the patient to unacceptable toxicity by prescribing multiple drugs with overlapping toxicity profiles, prescribed an off-label drug without medical justification, and failed to document any rationale for these actions. Yi practices at the Burzynski Clinic, whose proprietor, Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D., is facing charges filed within the last year.
Key fluoridation article updated. OpEd News has published a brief article—Fluoridation Is Highly Beneficial -- Don't Let Poisonmongers Scare You—in which Dr. Stephen Barrett warns that any community that considers fluoridation will be flooded with scare propaganda generated by a group of people whose goal is to end fluoridation everywhere and that even communities that have been fluoridated for many years are being targeted. Fluoridation opponents quickly demonstrated how poisonmongers work by submitting dozens of misleading comments. Dr. Barrett's article resembles one he wrote during the 1970s that was syndicated to hundreds of newspapers, published as an op-ed during fluoridation campaigns, and distributed as a flier by many dentists. The current article will be released for these purposes next week.
New Herbalife investigation results available. Pershing Square Capital Management will present its investigation of Herbalife Ltd.'s "nutrition clubs"at the AXA Equitable Center, 787 Seventh Ave., New York, on Tuesday, July 22, at 9:15 AM EDT to be followed by a question-and-answer session. The presentation will also be simultaneously webcast at www.herbalifepyramidscheme.com and www.factsaboutherbalife.com. Herbalife says that these "clubs" are simply social gatherings that bring people together to focus on good nutrition and exercise. But Herbalife arch-critic Bill Ackman believes that they are a core driver of Herbalife's pyramid scheme. Herbalife shares fell 10% after the presentation was announced.
JAMA editorial criticizes "medical" marijuana. Noting that 21 states and the District of Columbia permit physicians to prescribe "medical" marijuana, two physicians have summarized the problems that may occur as a result:
- The evidence supporting efficacy generally falls short of the standards the FDA requires for approval of other drugs. Marijuana may have efficacy in chemotherapy-induced vomiting, cachexia (weakness and wasting of the body) in HIV/AIDS patients, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and nerve-related pain, but claims of benefits for other conditions—including posttraumatic stress disorder, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, and Alzheimer's disease—rely mainly on testimonials.
- There is no clear optimal dose of marijuana for its various approved conditions.
- Prescription drugs are produced according to exacting standards to ensure uniformity and purity of the ingredients. Because regulatory standards of the production process vary by state, the composition, purity, and concentration of the active constituents of marijuana are also likely to vary. Marijuana contains more than 100 constituents that can have a variety of good or bad effects.
- Long-term use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal upon discontinuation.
- Marijuana exposure is associated with an increased risk of psychotic disorders in vulnerable individuals, but it is not yet possible to identify who is at risk.
- Possible risks of respiratory problems are a subject of active investigation.
- Recent findings suggest that long-term exposure may be associated with structural brain changes, and a decline in IQ.
- The current dispensing system does not adequately safeguard against the potential for diversion and abuse.
The authors believe that if marijuana is used for medical purposes, it should be subjected to the same evidence-based review and regulatory oversight as prescription drugs. Without these safeguards, the states are essentially legalizing recreational marijuana but forcing physicians to act as gatekeepers for those who wish to obtain it. [Wilkinson ST. Problems with the medicalization of marijuana. JAMA 311:2377-2378, 2014] Although a subscription is required to access the full article, about 2/3 of it is visible to nonsubscribers.
This page was revised on July 20, 2014.