Consumer Health Digest #18-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 11, 2018


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. 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.


Evidence on e-cigarettes and health reviewed. The Committee on the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, which was established under the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, has issued its comprehensive report based on a systematic review of more than 800 peer-reviewed studies. [Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC., 2018] Applying its strength-of-evidence framework, the committee found conclusive evidence to answer eight questions, substantial evidence to answer ten questions, moderate evidence to answer eight questions, limited evidence to answer twelve questions, insufficient evidence to answer four questions, and no available evidence to answer five questions. The report concluded:

E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful to health. The net public health outcome depends on the balance between adverse outcomes (increased youth initiation of combustible tobacco cigarettes, low or even decreased cessation rates in adults, and a low-risk profile). In some circumstances, adverse effects of e-cigarettes clearly warrant concern, such as the use of e-cigarettes among non-smoking adolescents and young adults, devices that are prone to explosion, and the presence of constituents in e-cigarette liquids that are of major health concern (e.g., diacetyl and some other flavorings). In other circumstances, namely regular combustible tobacco cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes to successfully quit smoking, e-cigarettes may represent an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness. For these reasons, e-cigarette regulation that merely considers whether to be restrictive or permissive to the marketing, manufacture, and sales of all e-cigarettes for all populations is unlikely to maximize benefits and minimize the risks.


Launch of diploma program in homeopathy thwarted. The launch of a three-year diploma program in homeopathy at publicly funded Georgian College in Ontario, Canada has been canceled following widespread criticism by advocates of science-based health care. Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh described the proposed program as a "three year course in what is essentially magical thinking, with a curriculum based on ideas that have no basis in fact." [Gavura S. Georgian College's homeopathy program: magical thinking presented as fact. Science-Based Medicine, January 25, 2018]


Homeopathic autism treatment scrutinized. Respen-A™ is promoted on the Web site of MedDEV-OTC, Inc. of Stanwood, Washington as a "homeopathic topical treatment for the core symptoms of autism." According to the product's Web site, it is currently available only as a compounded prescription medication from three pharmacies and has been prescribed by more than 130 doctors to more than 900 patients with autism spectrum disorders. After examining the evidence cited to support the product's effectiveness and considering that the product is so diluted that it is unlikely to contain any of the key ingredient (reserpine) highlighted in its marketing, Dr. Stephen Barrett has found no reason to believe the product is effective against symptoms of autism. In January 2018, the company's chief executive officer, Elane DeLack, R.N. launched a crowd-funding campaign on the Indiegogo site to enable the product to be "manufactured and marketed as an over the counter treatment that is easily accessible to millions of children and families worldwide who are suffering the effects of autism!" But, in response to a complaint, the site shut down the campaign for violating the site's terms of use. [Barrett S. A skeptical look at Respen-A and its promoters. Autism Watch, Feb. 1, 2018]


Body-building marketer warned about adulterated products. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Dynamic Technical Formulations (DTF) of Roswell, Georgia about its Current Good Manufacturing Practice violations for dietary supplements, misbranded dietary supplements, and unapproved claims. The letter characterizes as misbranded these products: Lift Candy, Pump Candy, Clafuel, Joint Fuel, DHEA fuel, Pump Fuel, OMEGA fuel, Night fuel, Organ fuel, Purify and Tudca. It warns that Tri-ton, marketed by DTF as a "Physique Enhancing Agent," is labeled as a dietary supplement, but contains SARM MK-2866 (also known as ostarine), which is authorized only for investigation as a new drug. SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) have been used to produce effects similar to those of anabolic steroids and have been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. [Norder L. Roswell company warned that its products are adulterated. AJC.com blog, Jan. 5, 2018] The FDA letter notes that liver toxicity and other life-threatening reactions have occurred in people taking SARMs.


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This page was posted on January 21, 2018