Consumer Health Digest #18-33

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 19, 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.


Academics blast prevalence of chiropractic "subluxation" teachings. Four chiropractic researchers have chastised chiropractic schools for continuing to promote "subluxation" concepts even though they have no legitimate place in modern health care. The researchers investigated 46 chiropractic programs (18 in the United States and 28 elsewhere) listed by the World Federation of Chiropractic Educational Institutions. They found that among the U.S. programs, the average number of mentions of "subluxation" in course titles and descriptions was 7. Those with the most mentions were Life University (25), Sherman College of Chiropractic (17), and the Palmer College of Chiropractic—Florida (16). "Subluxation" was mentioned by only a few the 18 non-U.S. programs. The research team concluded:

Unscientific terms and concepts should have no place in modern health care education, except perhaps in discussions with historical context. Unless these outdated concepts are rejected, the chiropractic profession and individual chiropractors will likely continue to face difficulties integrating with established health care systems and attaining cultural authority as experts in conservative neuromusculoskeletal health care. [Funk MF and others. The prevalence of the term subluxation in chiropractic degree program curricula throughout the world. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 26:24, 2018]

Chiropractic's "subluxation" is a nebulous entity that many chiropractors purport to diagnose and treat. The theory behind it is rooted in the notions of Daniel David Palmer, who claimed that the basic cause of disease was interference with the body's nerve supply. More than 100 years ago, he concluded that "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column." He proposed to remedy the gamut of disease by manipulating or "adjusting" the problem areas. Many chiropractors still describe subluxations as "bones out of place" and/or "pinched nerves"; many others describe them as "fixations" and/or loss of joint mobility. Outspoken denouncement of subluxation theory is not common. [Barrett S. Subluxation: Chiropractic's elusive buzzword. Quackwatch, May 21, 2006] In 2015, the International Chiropractic Education Collaboration said in a position statement that, "The teaching of vertebral subluxation complex as a vitalistic construct that claims that it is the cause of disease is unsupported by evidence. Its inclusion in a modern chiropractic curriculum in anything other than an historical context is therefore inappropriate and unnecessary." The signatories included seven of the non-U.S. programs, but none from the U.S.


Leading naturopathy textbook blasted. Harriet Hall, M.D. has written a detailed review of the fourth (2012) edition of Textbook of Natural Medicine which was edited  by Joseph E. Pizzorno, President Emeritus of the naturopathy school Bastyr University, and Michael T. Murray, a former Bastyr faculty member, with input from more than 90 other contributors. [Hall H. Naturopathy textbook. Science-Based Medicine. Aug. 14, 2018] The 1,944 page book, which has a list price of $252, is advertised as "the gold standard in natural medicine." Hall concluded:

It is hard for me to fathom how such a textbook could exist in the 21st century and how anyone could characterize it as scientific. Despite the plentiful citations, the content is a bizarre, uneven potpourri of good science, bad science, pseudoscience, vitalism, philosophy, ancient history, superstition, gullibility, misrepresentations, metaphysics, religion, hearsay, opinion, and anecdotes. (Note: I used the word potpourri intentionally; its original meaning in French was rotten pot.) Right alongside good conventional evidence-based medical information and advice, it recommends using treatments that are purely speculative and even treatments have been proven not to work. It is a travesty. If this is what NDs are taught, if this is what NDs believe, they are deluding themselves and doing their patients a disservice.

Arnold Relman, M.D. expressed similar alarm in his 2001 review of the 1999 edition of the textbook.


Herbalist charged with manslaughter. Yun Sen Luo, a Chinese herbal medicine consultant, has been charged by police in the Sydney, Australia suburb of Hornsby with manslaughter for the death of 56-year-old Chinese national Chaun Ying Xia whom Luo advised to take herbal products instead of standard diabetes drugs. On Facebook, Luo reportedly promotes traditional Chinese medicine beliefs and claims to be able to treat "insomnia," "pimple," "bitter taste," "infertility," "wind-stroke," "tennis elbow," and other disorders. [Cormack L. 'Dressed-up quackery': Chinese herbalist charged after patient died. Sydney Morning News. August 17, 2018]


Harms of cesium chloride treatments reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned cesium chloride for use as an ingredient in compounded drugs. Cesium chloride is a mineral salt that some offbeat practitioners prescribe to cancer patients, even though it is not FDA-approved. The FDA has identified 23 reports of patients who were harmed, including six who died. The most frequently reported harm was a disturbance of heart rhythm. [FDA alerts health care professionals of significant safety risks associated with cesium chloride. FDA. July 23, 2018]  However, attorney Jann Bellamy has pointed out that the FDA should have done this two years ago but instead gave credence to "supporting information" submitted by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the Alliance for Natural Health, the Integrative Medicine Consortium, and McGuff Compounding Pharmacy Services. Bellamy wrote that what happened "should demonstrate to everyone . . . the absolute disregard for evidence of safety and effectiveness on the part of naturopathic 'doctors' and integrative physicians and their 'professional' organizations." [Bellamy J. FDA blacklists cesium chloride, ineffective and dangerous naturopathic treatment. Science-Based Medicine. Aug. 2, 2018] She has also blasted state legislators and medical boards for failing to protect the public from unscientific practitioners.


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This page was posted on August 19, 2018.