Consumer Health Digest #15-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 7, 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.

Defeat Autism Now! debunked. Dr. Stephen Barrett has published a detailed investigative report on Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!), which he believes served as the worldwide hub of autism quackery from 1995 through 2010. [Barrett S. A critical look at Defeat Autism Now! and the "DAN! Protocol." Quackwatch, June 1, 2015] DAN! was a project of the Autism Research Institute (ARI), a nonprofit organization founded in 1967 by Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. (1928-2006). Rimland, a research psychologist, helped to dispel the long-held view that autism was caused by faulty mothering. But later in his career, he incorrectly concluded that autism was caused by vaccines and could be effectively treated with detoxification and dietary supplements. DAN! and ARI encouraged parents to believe that vaccines posed a risk of autism and that chelation therapy could help many of them. Surveys indicate that more than 25,000 autistic children have undergone treatments that have no proven value. DAN! attracted about 400 medical and osteopathic physicians, at least 67 of whom were subjected to government action. After ARI terminated its DAN! project, Dan Rossignol, M.D. launched the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) to perpetuate the DAN! practitioner network. In May 2015, the organization's online clinician directory listed 49 members in the United States, including 33 physicians.

OIG reports dental abuse. The U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has concluded that Texas did not ensure that requests for prior authorization of Medicaid orthodontic services were approved in accordance with State Medicaid guidelines. Based on a representative sampling of claims, the investigators estimated that the State agency improperly paid at least $191,410,707 ($133,370,225 Federal share) for orthodontic services. [Levinson DR. Texas paid millions for unallowable Medicaid orthodontic services. OIG Report No. A-06-11-00047, June 2015] In 2000, Texas spent about $12 million for braces for poor children. By 2011, the amount rose to $250 million, which was more than all other states combined. Knowledgeable observers believe that most of the inappropriate work was done by a few rogue dentists who figured out how to game the loosely-regulated system. During the past four years, WFAA-TV has aired more than 50 reports about inappropriate dentistry in Texas.

Diphtheria reported in Spain. A six-year-old boy has become the first recorded case of diphtheria in Spain for 29 years. Eight children who came in contact with the boy have tested positive for the causative bacteria but have not become ill. These children, all of whom had been vaccinated, have been placed in isolation and are being treated with antibiotics to prevent the disease from developing. [Eight more children infected with diphtheria. The Local Spain, June 8, 2015] The six-year-old was hospitalized in serious condition but appears to be responding well to treatment with diphtheria antitoxin obtained from Russia after an urgent international appeal. His parents have said they feel "cheated" by the anti-vaccination movement. Antoni Mateu, Catalonia's regional secretary for public health, has pledged to pursue offending anti-vaccination platforms that "spread lies and cause confusion." [Parents of diphtheria boy 'feel terrible guilt.' The Local Spain, June 5, 2015] Diphtheria had been considered eradicated in Spain, thanks to routine vaccination programs, with the last case having been reported in 1986.

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This page was posted on June 8, 2015.