Consumer Health Digest #19-01
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 6, 2019
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.
Physicians and chiropractor ordered to stop IV vitamin/mineral infusions. The Board of the Healing Arts of the State of Kansas has issued emergency suspension orders barring Angela J. Garner, M.D. and Tara S. Zeller, D.C. from practicing at IV Nutrition in Overland Park, Kansas or administering intravenous therapy to patients at any substantially similar clinic. [Marso A. JoCo doctor and chiropractor barred from working at IV vitamin and mineral clinics. Kansas City Star. Dec 28, 2018] The suspension order against Garner charged that she endangered patients by permitting clinic staff members to administer unknown doses of IV magnesium and delegating treatment to staff members who had not been appropriately licensed or trained to provide such care. The order also said that the clinic staff failed to do a diagnostic workup before treating a patient who had sought help for nausea and vomiting. The suspension order against Zeller charged that she committed gross negligence in relation to the care of three patients and improperly advertised that she could treat autoimmune issues, allergies, hormonal issues, short bowel syndrome, and other medical conditions with intravenous infusions. In October 2018, the board entered into a nondisciplinary consent order with Meredith Leach Snyder, MD, that addressed improper record-keeping and a lack of protocols for handling complications at her IV business in Kansas City. Snyder was ordered to take extra continuing education in medical record-keeping and have records monitored for six months by a board-approved monitor. Quackwatch has posted an analysis of regulatory actions against IV nutrition clinics and their typical advertising claims. [Barrett S. Regulatory actions against IV nutrition clinics. Quackwatch. Jan 7, 2019]
DOJ summarizes money recovered in health care fraud cases. The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, it recovered $2.5 billion in settlements and judgments in False Claim Act cases related to the health care industry, which includes drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians. This is the ninth consecutive year in which more than $2 billion was recovered in health care fraud cases. Most of the recovery arose from whistleblower suits in which company insiders disclosed the wrongdoing. [Justice Department recovers over $2.8 billion from False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2018. USDOJ news release 18-690, Dec 21, 2018]
More reports explore crowdfunding of dubious treatments. Two recent reports add to the literature on the use of crowdfunding platforms to support the pursuit of unproven treatments for serious health problems:
- One research team looked at the largest crowdfunding platform (GoFundMe) and three other well-trafficked sites that permit medical crowdfunding (YouCaring, CrowdRise, and Fund Razr). The search terms they used were related to (a) homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer, (b) hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for brain injury, (c) stem cell therapy for brain injury, and (d) spinal cord injury, and (e) long-term antibiotic therapy for "chronic Lyme disease"—all of which the researchers considered poorly supported and/or potentially dangerous. The study found that from Nov 1, 2015 through December 11, 2017, 1,059 campaigns had sought a total of $27.25 million and raised nearly $6.8 million. GoFundMe hosted 98% of the campaigns, YouCaring had 2%, and the others had none that met the researchers' inclusion criteria. [Vox F and others. Medical crowdfunding for scientifically unsupported or potentially dangerous treatments. JAMA 320:1705-1706, 2018]
- Another research team searched GoFundMe in June 2018 for campaigns that included the words "cancer" and variations on the word "homeopathy." They found 220 unique campaigns with all but eight located in the United States and Canada. The campaigns, which mentioned 26 unproven interventions, requested nearly US $5.8 million and garnered pledges of more than $1.4 million. In addition to homeopathy, the most common methods were dietary changes such as juicing and organic foods (39% of campaigns). The other methods for which funding was sought by at least 10% of the campaigns were: (a) dietary supplements and herbal remedies, (b) vitamin C infusions, and (c) oxygen, ozone, and hyperbaric treatments. Unsubstantiated claims for the treatments sought were made in 29% of the campaigns. Among those seeking the treatments: (a) 38% wanted to try every available treatment and use it in addition to standard treatment; (b) 29% chose to forgo standard treatment because of fear of adverse effects or doubts about effectiveness, and (c) 31% could not pursue standard treatment for financial or medical reasons. At least 28% had died after their campaign began. [Snyder J, Caulfield T. Patients' crowdfunding campaigns for alternative cancer treatments. Lancet Oncology. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30950-1, 2019]
Past issues of Consumer Health Digest have summarized the findings of studies of crowdfunding that involved cancer patients in the UK, claims that stem cell treatments were being offered through research studies, and claims that stem cell treatments had been proven effective.
FDA warns about teething necklaces and bracelets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a public warning that teething necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry marketed for relieving teething plain or providing sensory stimulation to persons with special needs have resulted in death or serious injuries due to choking or strangulation. The FDA advises parents and other caregivers to avoid the use of jewelry marketed for these purposes and to review the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations for treating teething pain. [FDA warns about safety risks of teething necklaces, bracelets to relieve teething pain or to provide sensory stimulation. FDA news release. Dec 20, 2018]
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