Consumer Health Digest #18-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 18, 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.


Patient killed by bee sting therapy. Apitherapy is the use of substances from honeybees (honey, propolis, royal jelly, or venom) to address various medical conditions. One type is "live bee acupuncture," in which a bee's head is squeezed until its stinger comes out and is inserted into the patient. In sensitized persons, venom can cause allergic reactions that range from mild, local swelling to severe systemic reactions, anaphylactic shock, or even death. The allergy division of Ramon y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid, Spain has reported that a 55-year old woman who had been receiving live bee stings every four weeks for two years to treat muscular contractures developed wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and sudden loss of consciousness immediately after treatment at an apitherapy clinic where adrenalin was not available. The woman was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but died several weeks later. During the anaphylactic attack, her blood pressure dropped very low, which caused a stroke with permanent coma and multi-organ impairment. This appears to be the first published report of death from anaphylaxis in a patient who had previously been tolerant to bee venom. The authors warn that (a) previous tolerance to bee stings does not prevent hypersensitivity reactions, (b) repeated exposure increases the risk, and (c) the risks of apitherapy exceed the alleged benefits [Vazquez-Revuelta P, Madrigal-Burgaleta R. Death due to live bee acupuncture apitherapy. Journal of Investigative Allergology and Clinical Immunology 28:45-46, 2018]

In a 2016 interview about her beauty regime, actress Gwyneth Paltrow described her own experience receiving bee stings as therapy. She said that she was "generally open to anything" and "I'm always the guinea pig to try everything. I've got to try them all. I love acupuncture." [Gwyneth Paltrow lets bees sting her for ancient health treatment. The Telegraph, Apr. 5, 2016]


Eczema misinformation common on YouTube. Investigators identified 128 relevant YouTube videos in English using five different search terms: (a) "atopic dermatitis," (b) eczema, (c) "eczema tips," (d) "eczema cure," and (e) "eczema treatment." They categorized 42 (33%) as useful, 22 (17%) as misleading, 42 (33%) as useful personal experiences, and 22 (17%) as misleading personal experiences. Most of the misinformation promoted specific dietary or supplement regimens and negative views about topical corticosteroids. [Freemyer B and others. A cross-sectional study of YouTube videos about atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 78:612-613, 2018] Additional information and commentary about the study is available in a MedPage Today article.


Persistent chiropractic problems noted. Four insightful overviews of chiropractic were recently published online:


Non-evidence-based beliefs common among chiropractic students in Australia. A survey of the 831 students in chiropractic programs at Murdoch and Macquarie universities drew responses from 444 (53%) of them. The results showed:

[Innes SI and others. How frequent are non-evidence-based health care beliefs in chiropractic students and do they vary across the pre-professional educational years. Chiropractic and Manual Therapies 26(8), 2018]


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This page was posted on March 20, 2018