Consumer Health Digest #19-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 4, 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.

Cannabidiol marketer warned. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning letter to Curaleaf Inc., of Wakefield, Massachusetts, for illegally selling more than a dozen unapproved products containing the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD) online with unsubstantiated claims such as:

The FDA previously sent warning letters to other companies that claimed their unapproved CBD products can prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer. Some of those products were improperly claimed to be dietary supplements. [FDA warns company marketing unapproved cannabidiol products with unsubstantiated claims to treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety. FDA news release, July 23, 2019]

False news about cannabis for cancer has grown rapidly. Four radiation oncologists have analyzed data on: (a) online search activity about cannabis and cancer, (b) news stories on this topic shared on social media from July 2017 to July 2018, and (c) tweets and Facebook posts of leading cancer organizations regarding top false news stories about the topic during that time period. [Shi S. and others. False news of a cannabis cancer cure. Cureus 11(1):e3918, 2019] They found:

The researchers concluded:

The false news of a cannabis cancer cure is spreading quickly online, and interest in such news stories is rapidly rising. In the face of this concerning increase, there has been a minimal online presence by major cancer hospitals and organizations, representing a crucial opportunity for the oncology community to correct this misinformation and communicate accurate information to patient and caregiver communities.

Family physician journal blasted for acupuncture endorsement. Harriet Hall, M.D., a retired family physician, has harshly criticized American Family Physician, the flagship journal for her medical specialty, for publishing: (a) an article "Acupuncture for pain" which she described as "biased, incomplete, gives false information, and is unethical" in concluding that acupuncture can be a reasonable treatment option and (b) an editorial in the same issue on "Integrating medical acupuncture into family medicine practice," which recommends using what she called "language of many a quack and charlatan" for convincing doctors and patients that acupuncture is effective. [Hall H. American Family Physician endorses acupuncture. Science-Based Medicine, July 30, 2019] The language she criticized included:

The "acupuncture for pain" article was written by two doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, which was similarly criticized in 2014 when it began operating a Chinese herbal-therapy clinic run by a "certified herbalist" who is licensed to practice "Oriental medicine." [Novella S. Herbal center at Cleveland Clinic. Science-Based Medicine Blog, April 23, 2014] Quackwatch has added American Family Physician to its "nonrecommended list" of journals that are "excellent except for too many poorly reasoned articles on "complementary" and/or "alternative" medicine.

Criticism of proposed Medicare acupuncture coverage needed. The Trump Administration has proposed that Medicare cover the cost for Medicare patients who participate in studies of acupuncture for back pain. Jann Bellamy explains why the proposal would be a waste of tax dollars and would give "acupuncturists the opportunity to sell patients on the vast array of pseudoscience covered by the acupuncturist's scope of practice." [Bellamy J. Medicare proposal covers acupuncture pain study participants: A prelude to full coverage? Science-Based Medicine, July 18, 2019] She encourages people with research and medical expertise to submit public comments about the proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by the deadline of August 15th.

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This page was posted on August 4, 2019.