Consumer Health Digest #14-45
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 14, 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.
Another chelationist disciplined. The Washington Department of Health has severely disciplined Stephen L. Smith, M.D. for mismanaging the care of a teen-age autistic boy. In March 2014, the authorities charged Smith with:
- Failing to record a detailed history and document appropriate physical examinations.
- Diagnosing malabsorption without documenting an appropriate management plan.
- Diagnosing toxic encephalopathy or lead poisoning despite the fact that there was no evidence to support this diagnosis. (Smith had based his diagnosis of lead toxicity on the results of provoked urine testing, in which the specimen is obtained after administration of a chelating agent that artificially and temporarily raised the amount excreted in the urine.)
- Treating the boy with probiotics, medication and a variety of supplements that cannot cure autism, did not address the patient's symptoms, and were potentially dangerous.
- Failing to document many of the supplements he provided.
- Failing to attempt to have the boy evaluated by appropriate specialists.
In November 2014, Smith signed a consent agreement in which he stipulated that the charges were fact-based and the board ordered him to (a) pay a $1,000 fine, (b) stop treating patients under the age of 18, (c) stop doing provoked testing, and (d) comply with other restrictions. Smith was part of a network of misguided doctors who use provoked testing to diagnose nonexistent metal toxicity. So far, authorities in the United Kingdom and at least three states (Washington, Oregon, and Connecticut) have explicitly ordered individual doctors to stop doing provoked testing .[Barrett S. How "provoked" urine metal tests are used to mislead patients. Quackwatch, updated May 26, 2017]
Herbalife accused of making illegal health claims. Pershing Square Capital Management has issued a videotape which shows distributors claiming that Herbalife products are effective against asthma, bronchitis, migraine headaches, stomach problems. arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and many other diseases, and can also provide weight loss without a change in diet or exercise activity. The video also notes that these claims violate federal drug laws as well as a permanent injunction obtained in 1986 by the California Attorney General. The current Attorney General (Kamala Harris) has been asked to take action, but so far has not done so. A recent report revealed that her husband (Douglas C. Emhoff) is a partner in a law firm that acts for Herbalife. [Is the California Attorney General avoiding investigating Herbalife to protect her husband?] Quoth the Raven blog, Dec 4, 2014]
Resveratrol research accelerating. Epidemiologic and laboratory tests suggest that this resveratrol (found in grapes and peanuts) and/or derivative compounds may have a useful medical role, but human testing did not begin until 2010. Some clinical trials have now been done, but most were small, short-term (a year or less), and designed to evaluate possible therapeutic effects rather than disease-preventive effects. So far, the evidence is not sufficient to recommend the use of resveratrol supplements, but many researchers are optimistic. [Barrett S. Resveratrol: Don't buy the hype. Quackwatch, Dec 11, 2014] The 3rd International Scientific Conference on Resveratrol and Health held this month will generate reports on the latest research.
This page was posted on December 14, 2014.