Consumer Health Digest #16-31

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 14, 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.

California acts against deceptive "pregnancy crisis centers." The Los Angeles City Attorney has warned three pregnancy crises centers (CPCs) that they are violating a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they remain noncompliant. The three facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center. In May, the City Attorney's office announced that it would aggressively enforce the recently enacted California Reproductive FACT Act (AB 775), which requires pregnancy clinics to inform their clients of public free and low-cost family planning services, contraception, and abortion services regardless of whether they provide them. Facilities that offer family planning counseling that are not licensed as medical facilities must also disclose that fact to their clients. Investigations in several states have found that CPCs that offered help with unintended pregnancies typically withheld information or used scare tactics to discourage contraceptive use and termination of unwanted pregnancies. NARAL has posted a comprehensive report on CPCs.

Graedons blasted again for irresponsible statin advice. Anne Marie Navar, M.D., a Duke University cardiologist, has severely criticized the July 30th episode of the People's Pharmacy weekly podcast on WUNC-radio. [Navar AM. People's Pharmacy guest dispenses bad advice on statins. Raleigh News & Observer, August 5, 2016]. The episode was titled "The truth about statins and heart disease" but was structured to put statins in a negative light. The program began with statements by Joe that "statins are controversial" and "many people" on statins report side effects (even though significant side effects are rare). Then Steven Nissen, M.D., a world-renowned cardiologist discussed the risks and benefits of statins and emphasized the importance of statins to lower risk of heart events in high-risk groups. Then came David Diamond, Ph.D., who made misleading statements such as (a) after age 60, people with high cholesterol are healthier than those with low cholesterol, (b) statins have a trivial effect on heart disease, and (c) consuming more vitamin K2, chocolate, eggs, or butter may reduce heart disease more than statins. Dr. Nissen was not given the opportunity to rebut these assertions. Dr. Navar also reported that one of her patients had stopped taking a statin as a result of hearing the broadcast. Last December, Harriet Hall, M.D., severely criticized the Graedons for suggesting that chelation therapy is more effective than statins. [Hall H. Misinterpreting TACT: No, chelation does not outperform statins for heart disease. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Dec 8, 2015]

The People's Pharmacy is co-hosted by Joe Graedon, who has a master's degree in pharmacology and his wife Terry, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology. They have produced many books that advise consumers about drugs, herbs, dietary supplements, and other home remedies; and have, for more than 35 years, produced newspaper columns distributed by King Features Syndicate. Much of their advice is standard, but they habitually promote nonstandard methods, publish anecdotes, and encourage self-experimentation based on flimsy evidence. Other recent broadcasts have promoted dubious approaches such as acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine.

"Dr. Sebi" dies after being jailed. Eighty-two-year-old Alfredo D. Bowman, (a/k/a/"Dr. Sebi") has died while awaiting trial for money laundering as charged by the Honduran Government. Press reports indicate that he was arrested shortly after entering the country with cash that he could not explain. Some reports describe two arrests, one in March involving $37,000 and another in May involving $50,000 carried by him and an associate. Other reports mention only one arrest, in June, with the amount being $37,000 or $50,000. All reports agree he was jailed on June 3rd, developed pneumonia, died on August 6th, and was survived by 17 children. Since the late 1980s, Bowman promoted himself in Honduras and the United States as a self-taught healer who cured thousands of people with serious diseases and proved in court that his methods are effective. [Barrett S. A skeptical look at "Dr. Sebi." Quackwatch, Aug 15, 2016]

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This page was posted on August 15, 2016.