Consumer Health Digest #15-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 25, 2015

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.

Court enables homeopathic class-action suit to proceed. A California federal judge has denied Hyland's Inc's. motion for summary judgment in a class-action suit alleging that claims that several of its homeopathic products fight colds and influenza quickly and effectively are false and violate California law. The class-action complaint contends that (a) homeopathy is a pseudoscience, (b) the product labels are false and misleading, and (c) the company promotes unwarranted fear and distrust of standard over-the-counter medicines. The judge rejected the company's argument that federal laws preempt the plaintiffs' claims. In April 2014, the court granted nationwide class status in the case, which was filed in 2012 against Hyland's, Standard Homeopathic Co., and Standard Homeopathic Laboratories Inc. Lead plaintiffs Enzo Forcellati and Lisa Roemmich contend that the defendants misrepresented their children's cold and flu products as safe and effective even though they are "nothing more than sweetened, flavored water with . . . highly diluted concentrations of the products' so-called 'active ingredients.'" The judge said that the plaintiffs' claims raise a triable issue of fact and the suit could therefore proceed.

"Wellness Center" criticized. Dr. Stephen Barrett has issued an investigative report about the Groton Wellness Center, a clinic in Groton, Massachusetts that was founded by two "holistic" dentists. The facilities include a dental clinic and a medical clinic and spa with a combined staff of 18 practitioners. The dental staff advocates removal of root canals, removal of amalgam fillings, meridian tooth analysis, and cavitation surgery and is opposed to all forms of fluoride administration. The medical clinic/spa offers intravenous nutrient therapy, cranial-sacral therapy, oral chelation, reiki, electrodermal screening, breast thermography, a 10-day "supercleanse, quantum reflex analysis, homeopathy, reflexology, and "chakra evaluation." The clinic's Web site includes the "Groton Wellness Diagnostic Tool," which consists of three pages of questions and a final page that makes the same 21 recommendations no matter how the questions are answered. The center's founders and another staff member have been disciplined by their state licensing boards. [Barrett S. Some notes on the Groton Wellness Center. Quackwatch, Jan 23, 2015]

Burzynski treatment fails teen with brain cancer. McKenzie Lowe, whose family persuaded the FDA to permit her to be treated with antineoplastons provided by Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D., has died. After McKenzie failed to respond to standard treatments for her aggressive cancer, her grandfather collected signatures and pleaded with legislators and government officials to allow her to receive antineoplaston treatment—a campaign that made national headlines. In March 2014, the FDA granted a compassionate use exemption for McKenzie to receive the drug if a local physician would oversee its administration. The physician who agreed to do this noted that the odds were against her. McKenzie's grandfather reported she had crippling side-effects from the treatment and her tumor continued to grow. [Guilmet A. Hudson teen loses cancer battle. New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct 26, 2014] Although Burzynski's treatment is highly questionable, the FDA has permitted him to administer it for many years in unusually structured clinical trials. [Szabo L. Doctor accused of selling false hope to families. USA Today, July 14, 2014] William London, Ed.D., M.P.H., has severely criticized the agency for doing this. [London WM. Another brain cancer patient suffers and dies following Burzynski treatment. Oct 27, 2014] David Gorski, M.D., has expressed additional concerns about the cost of McKenzie's treatment. [Gorski D. R.I.P., McKenzie Lowe. Stanislaw Burzynski failed you. Respectful Insolence Blog, Oct 30, 2014] In 2013, the Texas Medical Board filed charges that could lead to revocation of his medical license. [Barrett S. Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D., facing serious disciplinary action. Casewatch, July 14, 2014]

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This page was revised on January 26, 2015.