Consumer Health Digest #17-46

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 10, 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.


UK National Health Service drops coverage of homeopathic, herbal, and supplement products. NHS England has decided to stop covering 18 "low value" treatments, a move the government believes will generate £141 million in annual savings. The list includes seven that have also also been referred to the Department of Health for blacklisting: homeopathy, herbal treatments, omega-3 fatty acid compounds (fish oil), co-proxamol, rubefacients (excluding topical NSAIDS), lutein and antioxidants, and glucosamine and chondroitin. [Items which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care: Consultation and Report of Findings. NHS England, Nov 30, 2017] The Nightingale Collaboration has noted that this action is one of many regulatory actions that have blasted homeopathy in the UK in recent years.


Couple receives record sentences in health fraud case. A couple who billed Medicare for $10 million for home services and also committed tax frauds received the two longest sentences ever given in a health care fraud case. Ebong Tilong, 53, of Sugarland, Texas, was sentenced to 80 years in prison and his wife, Marie Neba, who has stage IV (terminal) breast cancer received a 75-year sentence. [Owner of home health agency sentenced in absentia to 80 years in prison for involvement in $13 million Medicare fraud conspiracy and for filing fraudulent tax returns. USDOJ news release, Dec 8, 2017] Many observers are puzzled that the sentences were so much longer than others have received for comparable crimes.


Dubious MS treatment's originator concedes that it doesn't work. Italian physician Paolo Zamboni has conceded that a therapy he developed and dubbed "the liberation treatment" does not cure or mitigate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The acknowledgment is based on the results of a well-designed trial that he headed. [Zamboni P and others. Efficacy and safety of extracranial vein angioplasty in multiple sclerosis: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Neurology. Published online, Nov 18. 2017] In 2006, Zamboni, who is a vascular surgeon, proposed that the real cause of MS is something he called chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) and claimed that blocked veins partially reverse blood flow from the brain, creating an iron overload that damages the brain. He subsequently reported finding CCSVI in 100% of MS patients and developed an angioplastic procedure—sometimes called "liberation therapy"—in which veins in the neck or chest are widened by inflating a balloon within them or (rarely) inserting a stent. However, the people who judged whether CCSVI was present knew which patients had MS and which did not. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that the Zamboni procedure was unproven and was associated with reports of death; stroke; detachment and migration of stents; damage to the treated vein; blood clots; cranial nerve damage; and abdominal bleeding. [Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency treatment in multiple sclerosis patients. FDA safety alert, May 12, 2012]


Quackwatch featured on dating advice site. DatingAdvice has posted a feature article about Quackwatch and Dr. Stephen Barrett. [Brooks A. Quackwatch explains how health misinformation can affect your life & relationships. DatingAdvice.com, December 11, 2017] In addition to providing tips on how to spot and avoid quackery, Dr. Barrett notes that big difference in health beliefs can wreck relationships and therefore learning a prospective partner's beliefs is important.


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This page was posted on December 11, 2017.