Consumer Health Digest #18-13
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 1, 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.
Reports blast high-priced German cancer clinics. Longreads has criticized several private "alternative" clinics that attract terminally ill cancer patients and charge exorbitant prices. [Gellman L The last resort. Longreads, March, 2018] The report notes:
- Some clinics combine legitimately experimental treatments with discredited ones such as ozone therapy, whole-body hyperthermia, and intravenous vitamin infusions.
- Several of the clinics offer synthetic peptide-based immunotherapy vaccines that are designed to destroy cancer cells that display a particular antigen but are unproven and largely unapproved for clinical use in the United States and Europe.
- Physicians offering peptide-based vaccines have been able to circumvent production standards by obtaining the vaccines designated "for laboratory use" rather than patient use.
- Laboratory-grade peptides are administered to patients at greatly marked-up prices; one patient treated for stage IV glioblastoma died soon afterward but was billed more than $1.5 million.
- The Hallwang Clinic, which caters primarily to non-Germans, has published testimonials that remain online after the patients who gave them died. More than 100 prospective patients have sought funding for treatment through GoFundMe pages with some targets exceeding $490,000.
- Three patients who had been injected with the experimental drug 3 Bromopyruvate at a clinic operated by a heilpraktiker died within days of one another.
Elaborating on the Longreads report, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., has concluded:
People will often say of a terminal illness: How could things get any worse? The lesson of Hallwang tells us. Things can get worse if you're induced into chasing false hope. Things can get worse if you are enticed into eschewing effective palliative treatment and suffer more than is necessary—or even die prematurely from the treatment. Things can get worse if you drain your life's savings, leave nothing behind for your family, and spend the rest of your life chasing ever more money. Things can get worse if your family joins you in draining their life's savings to pay for your treatments. Things can always get worse, and quack cancer clinics virtually guarantee that they will. [Gorski D. The deadly false hope of German alternative cancer clinics. Science-Based Medicine, Mar 26, 2018]
U.S. abortion services assessed. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has issued a 186-page report titled The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States. Its findings include:
- The four legal abortion methods used in the U.S. are: mifepristone (Mifeprex) dispensed under the supervision of a certified prescriber; aspiration; dilation and evacuation (D&E); and induction. All are safe and effective. The risk increases with increasing weeks of gestation, but serious complications are rare.
- Having an abortion is not associated with increased risk of secondary infertility, pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, abnormal placentation, pre-term birth, breast cancer, depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Most abortions can be provided safely in office-based settings. No evidence was found that clinicians who perform them require hospital privileges to ensure safe patient outcomes, but providers should arrange for access to medical facilities equipped to handle complications if necessary.
The full report can be read online or downloaded free of charge by registered users of the National Academy Press Web site.
"Neurotransmitter-related disease" marketer scrutinized. Dr. Stephen Barrett has critiqued the views and activities of Marty Hinz, M.D., who asserts that amino acids and other supplements can improve various conditions by balancing neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. Hinz also owns DBS Laboratory Services, which does urine testing for neurotransmitters; and his daughter operates a company that sells the relevant supplements. Dr. Barrett writes that he's skeptical because:
- DBS's test methodology has not been independently validated as a useful diagnostic test.
- Some of the disorders on Hinz's lists involve neurotransmitter problems, but I have been unable to find any research that supports the methods he recommends to treat them.
- Before posting this article, I asked Hinz whether any controlled clinical trial has ever demonstrated a favorable health outcome produced by one of his protocols. He replied that there are none.
[Barrett S. A skeptical look at Marty Hinz, M.D. and his views of "neurotransmitter-related diseases." Quackwatch, March 28, 2018]
This page was posted on April 3, 2018.