Consumer Health Digest #16-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 19, 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.

Endocrine Society hits compounded hormones and saliva testing. The Endocrine Society has updated its statement on compounded "bioidentical hormones" and is urging clinicians not to prescribe them. [Santoro N and others. Compounded bioidentical hormones in endocrinology practice: An Endocrine Society scientific statement. Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism 101:1318-1343, 2016] The document states:

Much of the advertising associated with these custom-compounded preparations implies that naturally occurring hormones are superior to synthetic hormones and compounded formulations are better than FDA-approved formulations. In some instances, the purveyors . . . claim to produce combinations of hormones that mimic the circulating hormonal milieu of young adulthood and therefore prevent various ravages of aging. In the most extreme cases, advertisers imply that compounded natural hormones are risk-free when compared with conventional menopausal hormone therapy that uses bioidentical and/or synthetic hormones. . . . However, very few (if any) of these claims are supported by research, and in fact, many compounded natural hormones have been associated with risks and side effects

Overall, there is a general lack of standardization and quality control regarding how custom-compounded bioidentical hormones are produced and administered, leading to the possibility of overdosing, underdosing, or contamination. There is also recent evidence of patient harm and death associated with treatment, as seen with fungus-contaminated glucocorticoid preparations. With estrogen, progestin, and dehydroepiandrosterone treatments, the practice of baseline hormone measurements to replace "abnormal" hormone deficiencies has no basis in medical practice. Furthermore, there is no evidence that monitoring compounded hormone therapy with serial salivary or blood testing is effective, except in the case of thyroid hormone. Finally, no evidence supports the popularized notion that custom-compounded bioidentical hormones have fewer risks when compared with FDA-approved hormone treatments.

USPSTF updates colorectal cancer screening guidelines. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has concluded "with high certainty" that for adults aged 50 to 75, the net benefit (benefit minus the harms) of screening for colorectal cancer is substantial. For those 76 to 85, the panel has concluded "with moderate certainty" that:

The rationale and recommended procedures are discussed in detail on the USPSTF Web site.

Obituary of NCAHF's founder posted. Skeptical Inquirer has published an obituary of William T. Jarvis, Ph.D., who died March 1 after suffering an embolic stroke of the cerebellum while playing tennis. [London WM. Quack Busters' leader William Jarvis dies at eighty. Skeptical Inquirer, March 22, 2016] Jarvis founded the National Council against Health Fraud and led it for many years. He emphasized that quackery is not merely the use of false and unproven medical procedures—the key is their deceptive promotion in the marketplace as "alternatives" or "complements" to standard medicine. He called for recognizing quackery as a public health problem to be combated with systematic epidemiologic investigation, legislation, law enforcement, education, and improving patient care.

Major skeptics conference scheduled for October. CSICON 4, a conference dedicated to scientific inquiry and critical thinking, will be held October 27-30, 2016 at the Excalibur Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. The program includes more than 30 speakers and provides a unique opportunity to network with anti-pseudoscience activists from around the world. Online registration is available.

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This page was posted on June 19, 2016.