Consumer Health Digest #20-15
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 19, 2020
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.
Genetic testing to predict adverse vaccine reactions debunked. Many offbeat practitioners are claiming that testing for variants of the MTHFR gene can determine who is at increased risk for various health problems including adverse reactions to vaccines. However, those are not validated uses for MTHFR testing. [Zhang S. Why anti-vax doctors are ordering 23andMe tests. The Atlantic. May 23, 2019] Four authors of the 2008 paper that has been cited as the basis for widespread MTHFR testing concluded last year: "It is unfortunate that the loose application of our exploratory report has been misinterpreted and used to inappropriately justify exemption of children from receiving medically indicated vaccines." [Reif DM and others. Inappropriate citation of vaccine article. Journal of Infectious Diseases. June 3, 2019]
Doctors who issue unjustified vaccination exemptions facing regulatory action. The Medical Board of California has received many complaints about physicians who provide medically unjustified exemptions from required childhood immunizations. [Sisson P. Three doctors face medical discipline for vaccine exemptions, and more could be on the way. Oct 24, 2019] So far, the board has filed accusations against at least four and is reportedly targeting two others:
- Ron Kennedy, M.D., who operates the Anti-Aging Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa and a large Web site called The Doctors' Medical Library, which promotes offbeat methods and misleading ideas such as vaccines being dangerous and ineffective
- Tara Alaina Zandvilet, M.D., who reportedly charged $180 for an office visit related to vaccine exemption and estimated that as of June 2019, she had written about 1,000 exemptions [Huntsberry W. Medical board charges San Diego doctor who's doled out dozens of vaccine exemptions. Voice of San Diego, Oct 24, 2019]
- Kenneth Stoller, M.D., of Santa Rosa, who allegedly used genetic testing as a basis for determining whether children should receive exemptions even though results have not been established as predictive of how children respond to vaccines
- Robert William Sears, M.D., of Capistrano Beach, a well-known promoter of an "alternative" vaccination schedule, whose medical license was suspended in 2018 for 35 months
- California's Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the medical board, is also suing to force disclosure of records from Sacramento area pediatricians Kelly Sutton and Michael Fielding Allen [Ostrov BF. California broadens investigation of doctors over their vaccination exemptions. Sacramento Bee, July 2, 2019]
Objections by parents and exemption-writers can slow down access to the relevant medical records, but, so far, the courts have supported government efforts to obtain them.
In 2015, following a major outbreak of measles centered at Disneyland, California, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 277, which outlawed "personal belief" exemptions from student vaccination requirements. Licensed physicians are still allowed to write exemptions for legitimate medical concerns. Since the law took effect, the number of medical exemption letters has gone up considerably and public health experts believe that many doctors are selling unnecessary medical exemptions. Last year, state lawmakers passed SB 276, which will standardize the exemption-reporting process and require the California Department of Public Health to investigate physicians who write five or more exemptions in a calendar year. [Young KD. California tightness scrutiny of medical vaccine exemptions. Rx List, Oct 29, 2019] The law, which takes effect January 1, 2021, also bars physicians from charging for filling out the medical exemption form.
Chiropractic anti-vaccination activism spotlighted. Undark has described the misguided activism of chiropractors who defend religious exemptions to mandated childhood immunizations in Connecticut, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and California. Their activism involves political action committees, advertising campaigns, grassroots organizing, and promoting chiropractic adjustments for immune wellness. [Schulson M. With legislation looming, chiropractors get political on vaccines. Undark. Apr 11, 2020]
Chiropractor ordered to stop marketing homeopathic COVID-19 treatment. A federal district judge has ordered Ray L. Nannis, D.C., to stop marketing a homeopathic "treatment" for COVID-19. The civil complaint states:
- Nannis, who operates Optimum Wellness Solutions, in Richardson, Texas, had advertised homeopathic sublingual products as both a "C-19 vaccine" and a "treatment, reducing severity and duration of symptoms, should you test positive."
- During a call from a government agent, Nannis insisted that his products could provide protection from the novel coronavirus—"more so than any other vaccine out there right now"—and would also minimize the symptoms of those who were infected.
- Although cautioning that he could not "technically" describe the products as a "cure" for coronavirus due to FDA restrictions, Nannis said that it "basically" and "for all intents and purposes" was a cure.
Alleging that Nannis was facilitating a "predatory" ongoing wire fraud scheme to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, the government sought injunctive relief under the Anti-Fraud Injunction statute. [Barrett S. Federal judge blocks sale of fake COVID-19 treatment. Casewatch. April 19, 2020]
This page was revised on April 20, 2020.