Consumer Health Digest #15-51

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 27, 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.

FDA proposes tanning bed ban for minors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing two rules to decrease the harm done by tanning beds. [FDA proposes tanning bed age restrictions and other important safety measures. FDA news release, Dec 18, 2015] Indoor tanning is a known contributor to skin cancer, including melanoma (its most deadly form), and other skin damage. Yet the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 1.6 million minors indoor tan each year. The American Academy of Dermatology has determined that people who have been exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. In addition, the effects of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation are cumulative, which means that radiation exposure in children and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life. One of the agency's proposed rules would restrict use of sunlamp products to individuals 18 and older and require people over 18 to sign a risk acknowledgment before their first use and every six months thereafter. The other proposal would require sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities to (a) making warnings easier to read and more prominent on the device, (b) require an emergency shut-off switch ("panic button"), (c) limit the amount of light allowed through protective eyewear, and (d) prohibit dangerous modifications, such as installing stronger bulbs, without FDA recertification. The FDA estimates that 18,000 to 19,000 indoor tanning salons and 15,000 to 20,000 other facilities, such as health clubs, spas, and other commercial establishments, offer tanning services in the United States. The proposed rules are available online for public comment for 90 days.

Texas chiropractors disciplined for exceeding scope of practice. During the past two years, the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners has disciplined more than a dozen chiropractors for advertising or practicing outside the proper scope of chiropractic, which it defines, in part, as the use of "objective or subjective means to analyze, examine, or evaluate the biomechanical condition of the spine and musculoskeletal system of the human body; or . . . . to improve the subluxation complex or the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system." The practices to which the board objected included claims or treatments related to autism, diabetes, thyroid problems, chelation, and spinal adjustments for animals. The cases were settled with agreed orders, all but one of which included payment of a small fine. The relevant documents can be accessed through Chirobase.

Court ends bizarre "copyright" dispute. A federal court has ruled, in effect, that a dentist could not use copyright law to stifle Internet criticism. Stacy Makhnevich, D.D.S., who practiced in New York City, required new patients to sign a "mutual agreement to maintain privacy" form giving up the right to criticize her publicly on the Internet and assigning to her the copyright in anything that the patient might later write about her. When a patient complained on Yelp and other review sites that Makhnevich had overcharged him for a filling and failed to provide the necessary insurance paperwork, Makhnevich sent a "takedown" notice to the review sites, claiming that the posting violated her copyright. She also demanded that the patient pay $100 for each day the "copyrighted" complaints remained online. Public Citizen filed a class-action complaint on behalf of all of Makhnevich's patients, seeking a declaration that the agreement was null and void and misused copyright law. Soon afterward, the company that created the form, Medical Justice, announced that it would withdraw the form and ask its customers to stop using it. Makhnevich moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that there was insufficient evidence of a real case or controversy, because she never really meant to enforce her threat. The court denied the motion, but during the year it was pending, Makhnevich closed her practice, left the United States, failed to comply with discovery, and stopped communicating with her lawyer. In February, 2015, in response to a default motion, the judge ruled that the contracts represented a misuse of copyright law and were unenforceable. The judge also awarded $4,776 in damages plus costs to lead plaintiff Robert Allen Lee. The ruling applied only to him, however, because pursuit of a class-action was impractical.

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This page was posted on December 27, 2015.