Consumer Health Digest #15-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 24, 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.

Zyto marketers get FDA warning. The FDA has ordered ZYTO Technologies of Lindon, Utah, to stop claiming that its ZYTO devices are useful for diagnosis or for measuring the body's "preferences" for nutritional products. [Mitchell LM. Warning letter to Vaughn R. Cook, May 8, 2015] The ZYTO Hand Cradle has 510(k) clearance for measuring galvanic skin response (GSR), which is the skin's resistance to passage of an electric current. GSR has no value in the diagnosis or treatment of disease, but software sold with the ZYTO Hand Cradle device is programmed to diagnose supposed organ weaknesses and recommend supposedly corrective products. [Barrett S. ZYTO Scanning: Another test to avoid. Device Watch, May 24, 2015]

The Zyto is one of many GSR devices being used by thousands of chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists, "holistic" physicians, veterinarians, self-styled "nutritionists," and various unlicensed individuals. The most common use is for prescribing homeopathic products. They are also used to determine "allergies," detect "nutrient deficiencies," and locate alleged problems in teeth that contain amalgam fillings. The FDA has banned importation of some GSR devices into the United States and warned or prosecuted several marketers. Foreign and state regulatory agencies have taken many actions. However, no systematic effort has been made to drive these devices from the marketplace. [Barrett S. Regulatory actions related to EAV devices. Quackwatch, May 24, 2015] It will be interesting to see whether the FDA's current interest in ZYTO has any practical effect.

Extraordinary pattern of dental abuse alleged. Howard S. Schneider, D.D.S., of Jacksonville, Florida, is facing multiple accusations and lawsuits alleging that that he pulled teeth unnecessarily and inflicted severe pain and emotional trauma on scores of children. The situation came to a head after a mother posted her story on her Facebook page, word spread through social media, and mothers of victims forced him to close his office by picketing it. [Dentist accused of abusing children, unwanted procedures, CNN, May 20, 2015] Press reports indicate that (a) Schneider collected nearly $4 million from Medicaid during the past five years, (b) despite his pattern of alleged abuses, parents brought their children to him because few dentists in their community accepted Medicaid, and (c) the Florida Attorney General has launched a criminal Medicaid fraud investigation. A class-action suit accuses Schneider of "choking children to the point of unconsciousness rather than using appropriate anesthetic prior to doing tooth extractions" and "using fear and threats to scare and thereby silence his victims, including threats not limited to saying things like 'Your mom will die' if you tell her what happened." The Florida Department of Dental Health Web site states that on May 22, Schneider applied for voluntary relinquishment of his dental license. Similar abuses at Small Smiles Centers throughout the country got widespread publicity several years ago.

Drug company over-promotion of vitamins chronicled. Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection, provides a fascinating account of the discovery and rapid commercialization of vitamins and the current under-regulation of dietary supplements. Many people think that food and drug companies are somehow hostile to the marketing of dietary supplements, but the book reports how for decades they used scare tactics and overblown claims to promote them.

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This page was posted on May 25, 2015.