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:


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:


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:

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]


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This page was posted on May 27, 2018