Consumer Health Digest #18-51

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 23, 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.

New Brunswick naturopaths barred from advertising that they are medically trained. New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench Justice Hugh McLellan has ruled that naturopaths in New Brunswick cannot mislead the public by advertising themselves as "medically trained." His ruling noted that that in New Brunswick, naturopathy has no legal status and: "Naturopaths are not medical practitioners and . . . are not allowed to use words to suggest that they are." The College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, which regulates medical doctors, had asked the court to stop naturopaths from using terms such as "medical practitioner" and "family practice" to describe themselves. [Wright J. Naturopaths can't suggest they're 'medically trained," New Brunswick judge rules. CBC News. Dec 18, 2018]

UK "CAM" organizations face new scrutiny for charitable status. The Charity Commission for England and Wales has revised its approach to deciding whether organizations that use or promote "complementary and alternative (CAM)" therapies meet the legal test to be charities. The updated guidance will apply to organizations already registered as charities as well as those that wish to apply. The key question that will be asked is whether CAM organizations can provide evidence that support their claims. The Commission's new operational guidance document for "CAM" states on page 5:

Objective, scientifically-based evidence will be required for any claims to cure medical conditions. Where the benefit claimed is palliative (relieving suffering), it may be possible to establish benefit without evidence of a physiological effect. In those cases, patient reporting evidence, of appropriate quality, may be sufficient to establish claimed benefit.

The Commission's preliminary view is that no action will be needed for the vast majority of registered "CAM" charities. [Charity Commission for England and Wales. Outcome report. The use and promotion of complementary and alternative medicine: making decisions about charitable status. 2018.] However, those that promote homeopathy may now be at risk of losing charitable status, given the lack of supporting evidence and last year's ban of funding for homeopathy in the UK National Health Service. [Cockburn H. Homeopathy organizations could lose charitable status if they can't provide medical evidence of benefits. Independent. Dec 11, 2018]

Early 20th century quackbuster profiled. Skeptical Inquirer has published a scholarly biography of Arthur J. Cramp, MD (1872-1951), who led the American Medical Association's early efforts to counter quackery. The article notes that he "contributed to the professionalization of American medicine by identifying and exposing quackery; subjecting claimed remedies to scientific analysis; assisting government, public, and professional policing efforts directed at controlling health fraud; and pursuing an aggressive thirty-five–year public education program." [Blaskiewicz R, Jarsulic M. Arthur J. Cramp: the quackbuster who professionalized American medicine. Skeptical Inquirer 42(6), Nov/Dec 2018] Cramp compiled the articles he wrote for the Journal of the American Medical Association into three books that have been described as "a veritable encyclopedia on the nostrum evil and quackery" of his day:Nostrums & Quackery Second Edition (1912), Nostrums and Quackery, Volume II (1926), and Nostrums and Quackery and Pseudo-Medicine, Volume III(1936), all published by the American Medical Association. The full text of three of these books is posted to Quackwatch.

Harmful impact fake medical news exposed. A recent opinion piece exposes the life-threatening effects of fake medical news stories that assert: (a) exaggerated risks and benefits of statin drugs, (b) debunked concerns about vaccinations, and (c) dubious approaches to cancer management. The essay calls for more transparency about funding of science and reduced emphasis in news coverage of observational studies, which generally are not as significant as randomized controlled trials. [Warraich H. Dr. Google is a liar. The New York Times. Dec 16, 2018]

Stem cell marketer warned. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered Genetech, Inc. of San Diego, California and its president, Edwin N. Pinos to stop marketing stem cell products without FDA approval. [FDA sends warning to company for marketing dangerous unapproved stem cell products that put patients at risk and puts other stem cell firms, providers on notice. FDA news release. Dec 20, 2018] In June, an FDA inspection found that the company was processing cellular products from human umbilical cord blood for administration by intra-articular (joint) injection, intravenous injection, or application directly to the affected tissue to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions. Government agencies are aware of 12 patients who received Genetech products and subsequently developed bacterial infections of the bloodstream, joints, or elsewhere. The products were distributed by Liveyon in Yorba Linda, California, as ReGen5, ReGen10, and ReGen30.

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This page was revised on January 14, 2019.