Consumer Health Digest #18-21
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 27, 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.
CFI objects to Michigan naturopath licensing bill. The Center for Inquiry has warned that Senate Bill 826, which was passed in the Michigan State Senate by a vote of 24-10, would legitimize "bogus medicine" by granting "state licensure to naturopaths and the authority to treat patients' illnesses and injuries despite the naturopaths' lack of medical training or credentials." [Michigan naturopath bill would legitimize dangerous quack medicine, say science advocates. CSU press release, May 24, 2018] Detailed critiques of the bill are available at Respectful Insolence and Science-Based Medicine.
Stem-cell treatment misinformation found on crowdfunding platforms. Researchers have identified a total of 408 crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe and YouCaring to subsidize treatment at 50 U.S.-based businesses engaging in direct-to-consumer marketing of unproven stem cell interventions. The appeals included definite statements of efficacy in 178 (43.6%) of the campaigns, optimistic or hopeful statements in 124 (30.4%) of the campaigns, and hyped statements of efficacy in 63 (15.4%) of the campaigns. Only 36 mentioned risks, and all of those were categorized as low or no risks compared with alternative treatments. As of December 2017, the campaigns had requested $7,439,308 and received $1,450,011 in pledges from 13,050 donors. [Snyder J and others. Crowdfunding for unproven stem cell-based interventions. JAMA 319:1935, 2018] HealthNewsReview.org has provided an informative commentary about the study. The International Society for Stem Cell Research has issued a consumer guide with these warnings:
- Beware of stem cell treatments offered without regulatory approval or outside the confines of a legitimate and registered clinical trial.
- Unproven treatments present serious health, personal and financial considerations. Consider what might be lost and discuss these risks with your family and healthcare providers.
- Be wary of clinics offering treatments with stem cells originating from a part of your body unrelated to your disease or condition.
- View clinics that offer the same cell treatment for a wide variety of conditions or diseases with extreme caution. Be wary of claims that stem cells will somehow just know where to go and what to do to treat a specific condition.
- Your best protection against clinics selling unproven stem cell treatments is an understanding of the science behind your disease, injury or condition.
- Every medical procedure carries risk; be wary of clinics that gloss over or minimize the risks associated with their treatments.
- Beware of clinics that use persuasive language, including patient testimonials, on the Internet, Facebook and newspapers, to market their treatments, instead of science-based evidence.
- Beware of expensive treatments that have not passed successfully through clinical trials.
- Beware of clinics that circumvent the accepted process by which scientific discoveries are developed into new medical treatments.
FDA warns against benzocaine for teething/mouth pain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has updated its communications about oral products containing the local anesthetic benzocaine. [Risk of serious and potentially fatal blood disorder prompts FDA action on oral over-the-counter benzocaine products used for teething and mouth pain and prescription local anesthetics. FDA Safety Announcement, May 23, 2018] These products include nonprescription gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges under the brand names Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, Orajel and Topex, as well as store brands and generics. [FDA takes action against the use of OTC benzocaine teething products due to serious safety risk, lack of benefit. FDA News Release, May 23, 2018] The FDA now advises:
- Oral benzocaine drug products can cause methemoglobinemia, which can be life threatening.
- Immediate medical attention is needed for signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia, which may appear within minutes to one to two hours after using benzocaine. These include pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, and nail beds; shortness of breath; fatigue; confusion; headache; lightheadedness; and fast heart rate.
- OTC oral benzocaine-containing products should not be used to treat infants and children younger than 2 years.
- Benzocaine oral drug products for adults and children 2 years and older should contain new warnings on the drug label.
- Benzocaine oral drug products provide little to no benefits for treating oral pain, including sore gums in infants due to teething.
- Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations for treating teething pain, which include gently rubbing or massaging the child's gums with one of your fingers, and/.or using a firm rubber teething ring.
Accusation filed against M.D. promoter of "homeopathic" audio. The Medical Board of California has accused homeopath William Edwin Gray III, M.D. with unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, and/or repeated negligent acts related to his marketing of sound files he calls "eRemedies." According to Gray's Web site:
- His eRemedies are created by the extracting "energetic signals" in homeopathic remedies with a device consisting of a simple coil connected to an amplifier and digitizer and storing the resulting signals as .wav or MP3 files.
- Each product is a 13-second hissing sound that "contains frequencies unique to each chosen eRemedy" and "can bring rapid relief to acute ailments, simply by playing the MP3 file on a cellphone or computer."
- eRemedies are effective in treating anxiety/panic/phobia; back pain; bites and stings; bladder infection; cholera; cough; diarrhea; earache; fever; grief; head injury; headache; infant colic; influenza; injury; labor delivery; malaria; menstrual pain; pet abscess; pet bladder infection; teething, toothache; and typhoid.
- In 2014, 3 out of 3 cases of Ebola were cured via cellphones simply by playing the appropriate eRemedy several times in an hour.
The medical board's accusation states that Gray (a) had failed to register his offerings with the FDA, (b) lacked evidence that homeopathic remedies can be transmitted electronically via sound waves, (c) was marketing remedies not eligible for over-the-counter status, (d) was negligent by not examining patients to whom he sold products, and (e) had practiced in 2016 and 2017 even though his medical license status was delinquent.
Gray, who graduated from Stanford University Medical School in 1970, has practiced and taught homeopathy throughout nearly all of his medical career. In 2003, the FDA warned him, doing business as Bill Gray Medical Corp, to stop claiming that "Dr. Gray's Smallpox Shield" (a homeopathic product) could prevent smallpox despite direct exposure, had been proven in smallpox epidemics throughout the world, and was completely safe. The Los Angeles Times has reported that Gray does not plan to contest the current allegations because he practices homeopathy full-time and doesn't believe he needs a medical license to continue doing that. [Karlamangla S. A California doctor is selling hissing sounds to patients. The medical board isn't buying it. Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2018]
This page was posted on May 27, 2018