Consumer Health Digest #17-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 30, 2017

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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

Toxicologists warn again about provoked testing. The American College of Toxicology has reaffirmed its position statement on post-chelator challenge urinary metal testing, which it defines as "the practice of collecting specimens immediately or within 48 hours of administering a chelating agent." (Chelating agents bind heavy metals circulating in the blood stream and cause them to be excreted rapidly in the urine. Post-chelator challenge testing is commonly referred to as "provoked testing.") The statement notes:

Quackwatch has additional information about how urine metal testing is used to mislead patients.

Phony "doctor" likely headed for prison. Elizabeth Gervais, who falsely represented herself as a licensed doctor appears headed for prison. On July 26, the Justice Department announced that she had pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of making false statements. She also agreed to forfeit $108,146 as proceeds of illegal activity. The plea agreement indicates:

The maximum penalty for wire fraud affecting a financial institution is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Aggravated identity fraud carries a two-year mandatory minimum prison sentence to run consecutively to any other sentence imposed. The maximum penalty for making a false statement is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She is scheduled for sentencing in November.

Lyme disease misinformation attacked. Three prominent infectious disease specialists have expressed concern about the political efforts of the "chronic Lyme disease" community to interfere with science-based medical regulations. [Shapiro ED and others. False and misleading information about Lyme disease. American Journal of Medicine 130:771-772, 2017] The article notes:

Lyme disease patient advocates have lobbied state legislatures in both Maryland and Virginia to pass laws that require physicians to inform their patients that a negative result from an FDA-approved diagnostic test does not necessarily mean that they do not have Lyme disease. This casts doubt on the validity of approved diagnostic tests and encourages seronegative patients with chronic nonspecific symptoms to seek treatment for their symptoms with prolonged courses of antibiotics, often at great personal expense and to the detriment of their health. . . .

Politicians are attempting to displace mainstream physicians as diagnosticians in the complex world of Lyme disease by passing legislation that encourages the use of unproven treatments and that requires health insurance companies to pay for unsafe remedies with no documented benefit and well-documented adverse effects. This makes it difficult for medical review boards to safeguard public health by disciplining those who put patients at risk. It also increases the cost of health care without tangible benefits. The real shame in all of this is that the time, attention, and resources that are being misdirected could be better spent on research that is designed to address, to understand, and to try to remedy the problems that these patients have. By so doing, we might begin to improve the lives of those who are genuinely and indisputably suffering—just not from Lyme disease.

Since 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained a list of non-recomended laboratory tests for Lyme disease.

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This page was posted on July 30, 2017.