Consumer Health Digest #19-03

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 20, 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.


Twenty years of US medical marketing reviewed. JAMA has published a comprehensive analysis of consumer advertising, professional marketing, state and federal regulatory actions, peer-reviewed medical journals, business journals, and news media from 1997 through 2016. [Schwartz L, Woloshin S. Medical marketing in the United States, 1997-2016. JAMA 321:80-96, 2019] The findings include:

An accompanying editorial says the analysis is "a unique contribution and represents a comprehensive, rigorous, and insightful report on the ubiquitous, multifaceted, multitargeted, and well-financed phenomenon of medical marketing." [Bauchner H, Fontanarosa PB. Medical marketing in the United States—a truly special communication. JAMA 321(1):42-43, 2019] Another commentary about the investigation concluded:

Patients' trust in physicians puts them in a position to help mitigate the harms of DTC advertising. However, trust in physicians and health care institutions may be at stake if medical marketing by practitioners, health care organizations, and manufacturers of health care products continues to increase unchecked. [Ortiz SE. Rosenthal MB. Medical marketing, trust, and the patient-physician relationship. JAMA. 321(1):40-41, 2019]


Evidence still lacking for facilitated communication. A systematic review of the scientific literature published since 2014 has concluded that there still is no evidence that facilitated communication is valid. In the FC process, a so-called "facilitator" supports the hand or arm of a nonverbal, disabled person who points to letters, pictures, or objects on a keyboard or communication board. It is clear, however, that the messages originate with the facilitator, not the patients. The researchers concluded: (a) there are still no studies that demonstrate that individuals with communication disabilities are the authors of the messages generated using FC, and (b) substantial peer-reviewed literature is critical of FC and warns against its use. [Hemsley B and others. Systematic review of facilitated communication 2014–2018 finds no new evidence that messages delivered using facilitated communication are authored by the person with disability. Autism  & Developmental Language Impairments 3:1-8, 2018] On January 10, 2019, despite requests from critics to cancel the event, the National Down Syndrome Society broadcast a Webinar that promoted FC. [Vyse S. National Down Syndrome Society promotes communication pseudoscience. Skeptical Inquirer. January 16, 2019]


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This page was posted on January 20, 2019.