Consumer Health Digest #16-07

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 21, 2016

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.

Experts call for global rejection of homeopathy. Last month, eight prominent scientists met in Freiburg, Germany to discuss how to inform the public responsibly and counter the rampant misinformation about homeopathy to which Germans and others are regularly exposed. They founded the Homeopathy Information Network and issued the Freiburg Declaration on Homeopathy, which called homeopathy "a stubbornly persistent belief system" and concluded:

Our criticism is not aimed at needy patients or practicing homeopathic clinicians; it is aimed at the school of homeopathy and the healthcare institutions which could have long recognized the nonsensical nature of homeopathy, but have chosen not to interfere. We ask the players within our science-based healthcare system to finally reject homeopathy and other pseudoscientific methods and to return to what should be self-evident: scientifically validated, fair and generally reproducible rules promoting top-quality medicine for the benefit of the patient.

"MCS" doctor shut down. The Maryland State Board of Physicians has ordered Grace Ziem, M.D. to cease medical practice. The summary suspension order was based on the board's conclusion that Ziem was habitually intoxicated by alcohol and ordered excessive amounts of controlled substances for herself and others. The suspension order noted that Ziem practiced medicine 3½ days per week, seeing two or three patients per month for face-to-face office visits and having teleconference consultations with four or five patients a day, many of whom were from out-of-state. From 1994 through 2000, Ziem and an associate served as founding directors of MCS Referral and Resources, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose objective was to legitimatize the medically-rejected diagnostic concept of multiple chemical sensitivity. In 2006, the organization's Web site described her as "an occupational and environmental medicine physician who has specialized in chemical injury and sensitivity since 1987."

Another chelationist disciplined. The North Carolina Medical Board has reprimanded John C. Pittman, M.D. and ordered him to stop treating patients under the age of 18. The action was based on the board's conclusion that Pittman had improperly managed the care of a 15-year-old boy, The boy had presented with nonspecific symptoms that included headaches, dizziness, leg numbness, fatigue and malaise. Although a blood test revealed that he had a dangerously low platelet count, Pittman said he did not see the report until several weeks later and did not inform the boy's mother until the day after the test was repeated and showed an even lower count. When informed, the mother brought the boy to a hospital emergency room where he was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombotic purpura (a bleeding disorder), admitted to the hospital, and monitored by a hematologist until his platelet levels increased. (Platelets enable blood to clot normally.) The board concluded that Pittman's delay in recognizing and addressing the low platelet count until several weeks after his initial blood test had placed the patient "at a higher risk for potential catastrophic illness." Pittman operates the Carolina Center of Integrative Medicine, which advocates chelation therapy, thermography, and many other nonstandard modalities. In 2002, he was disciplined after the hemoglobin level of a patient he was treating with intravenous hydrogen peroxide dropped to life-threatening levels. The clinic's Web site claims that chelation therapy is effective against dozens of diseases and conditions.

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This page was posted on February 21, 2016.