Consumer Health Digest #14-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 18, 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.

Randi profiled in New York Times. The New York Times has published a fascinating account of James ("The Amazing") Randi's life and work. [Higginbottham A. The unbelievable skepticism of the Amazing Randi. New York Times Magazine, Nov 7, 2014] Randi's targets have included astrology, spiritualism, "psychic powers," "faith healers," homeopathy, and many other types of hokum.

Glucosamine flunks another test. A 4-year study has found no evidence that glucosamine and chondroitin are effective in relieving knee symptoms or slowing disease progression among patients with osteoarthritis. The researchers followed 1,625 patients, 18% of whom began using glucosamine and/or chondroitin during the study period. The users did no better than the non-users. [Yang S and others. Effects of glucosamine and chondroitin on treating knee osteoarthritis: An analysis with marginal structural models. Arthritis & Rheumatism, Nov 4, 2014] Studies of glucosamine are conflicting, but the best-designed studies, including this one, are negative. Chondroitin appears to be useless. In addition, product quality control may be a significant problem. [Barrett S. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis: Benefit is unlikely. Quackwatch, Nov 17, 2014]

United Sciences story archived. MLM Watch has posted an archive of documents related to the rise and fall of United Sciences of America, Inc. (USA) in 1986-87. Its story is interesting because USA was the first multilevel marketing company (MLM) to use slick videotapes and a prominent scientific advisory board as sales tools and was the first large MLM hit hard enough by regulators to shut it down. The company promoted "four state-of-the-art nutritional formulations that are based on over 50,000 published research and clinical studies interpreted by some of the world's foremost research scientists . . . to come up with the right amounts of nutrients to promote optimal health without any risk whatsoever of toxicity." But claims made for the products violated state and federal drugs laws and triggered government actions that stopped their sale.

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This page was revised on November 21, 2014.