The Age (1/4/94) Melbourne newspaper reports that an 11-year-old Australian girl suffered a fatal asthma attack after her mother gave her 500 mg of double-strength royal jelly. Royal jelly, which is used to make queens, is found in the salivary glands of bees. Royal jelly is sold in health food stores and other sources with an uncritical love-affair with so-called "natural" products. The report also cites the death of a 21-yr-old woman after taking a Chinese herbal concoction for the flu. "Alternative" therapies is said to be a billion-dollar-a year-industry in Australia. The Melbourne Herald Sun (1/5/94) quotes the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA), which represents more than 2,000 therapists, as saying that there was no law stopping uneducated quacks from recommending "alternative" medicines to patients. The ANTA wants to use the tragedies as a lever for licensure. An ANTA spokes-person said that health food store operators who were "no better than delicatessen owners" were also selling medicines. ANTA accused the Australian Medical Association of being concerned about its financial well-being because "alternative" medicine had doubled in size in the past 7 years.
Nu Skin International, Inc., three other companies and three of Nu Skin's leading distributors have agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle FTC charges that they falsely represented the earning potential of Nu Skin distributors, and that they made false and unsubstantiated claims for three products--a baldness treatment, a wrinkle solution and a burn cream. (FTC News Notes, 1994;94:(2):2)
Chiropractic associations have placed full-page magazine ads boasting that workers comp studies find DCs superior to MDs in treating low back pain (LBP), but a well-designed study casts doubt on such claims. The Civilian Health and Medical Program of Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) was asked by Congress to determine the advisability of including chiropractic services for its constituents. Its review of workers comp studies found that they were inadequate to judge the value of chiropractic versus medical care for LBP. They pointed out that claims data are often incomplete, do not allow for comparability of study groups, are primarily administrative data bases, do not provide information about prognostic indicators, and provide no indicators of severity of illness. Even the differences between laws and regulations from state to state governing compensat-ion were problematic. To provide a fair test, CHAMPUS undertook an 18-month demonstration project to determine the cost effectiveness of chiropractic care. During the project, about 7,000 used DC services, 27,000 used MD services (20% used both). Conclusion: "Inclusion of chiropractic--and its additional cost--without compelling evidence of benefit does not seem appropriate at this time."
(Dept of Defense. CHAMPUS Chiro-practic Demonstration, August, 1993)
Comment. The CHAMPUS report shows that workers comp comparisons between MD and DC care are not valid. It also refutes a Canadian economists' report (Manga, et al) which claimed that chiropractic was the most cost effective system for treating LBP. Few of the studies cited by Manga actually dealt with chiropractic manipulation per se, and those involved a small number of patients. Manga ignored studies cited in its own report that concluded a lack of evidence for the value of spinal manipulative therapy for LBP, and exhibited strong bias in its concluding statement that the review "may leave the impression that chiropractic is valuable only for the treatment of LBP but of no proven worth for other disorders. This, most emphatically, is not the message we intend. Chiropractors treat patients with many conditions, often in an apparently competent and cost-effective manner." This departure from the LBP focus of the report sounded more like public relations than reliable reporting.
The American Cancer Society's new booklet Questionable Methods of Cancer Management (15 pp) is available from your local ACS chapter without charge. The new booklet replaces former publications on so-called "unproven methods." The new booklet provides the most detailed information ever on the nature of questionable methods, their dangers, their appeal, how they are promoted, why people come to wrongly believe that they may be of value, and the problem of refusing care for dependents on religious or philosophical grounds. Specific recommendations are made to various groups involved with or concerned about questionable cancer care. The booklet follows the style of NCAHF position papers primarily because it was written by William Jarvis and edited by Stephen Barrett.
Minnesota Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III announced recently that Leo Schwenke, operator of Schwenke Healt h Foods out of his home in rural Kasson, Minnesota, has been ordered to stop engaging in the unlawful practice of medicine, and to discontinue selling any type of machine for use in diagnosing, treating or curing any type of health condition. Schwenke was using an electronic device known as a Target V Massage Stimulator or frequency generator which he claimed was an analyzer of health conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and Lyme disease. He was charging consumers $25 for eac h analyzer session, and $15 for each Target V session. Schwenke also was selling these devices to consumers for medical use charging approximately $1,500 for an analyzer and $3,000 for a Target V device. A search of his property found at least ten machines and 200 client files. Informal financial records for 1992 totalled more than $127,000. Schwenke was fined $10,000 as civil penalties for violating the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and the Consumer Fraud Act. Schwenke was also ordered to make full restitution to any consumer that he defrauded upon their request. (Court file #C3-93-374, Dodge County)
Administrative law judge Robert Neher revoked the license of Mark S. Hulet, DDS citing his removal of dental fillings as a sign of gross negligence. Hulet, who practiced in Victorville, Calif., advertised that mercury detection equipment he used was appropriate for diagnosis and that the removal of mercury-containing dental fillings could improve or cure various diseases. One advertisement ran with a skull and crossbones that falsely implied that dental fillings commonly caused mercury poisoning. Patients who were having no dental problems were convinced by Hulet to have extensive dental treatment without justification. Hulet relied upon a book Its All In Your Head, written by Hal Huggins, DDS, that asserts that multiple sclerosis can be cured by removing dental fillings. Judge Neher described Hulet as having "no apparent research skills, nor indeed an understanding of research at all." The Judge stated that Hulet "relies virtually exclusively on a handful of colleagues that he agrees with, but whose science he is unfamiliar with," and goes on to say that Hulet "justifies his conduct by double talk and purposeful use of ambiguous words, and actually believes such nonsense as: I can practice medicine with a dental license as long as I call it 'electro-acupuncture,' 'dental acupuncture,' 'Oriental medicine,' or 'non-traditional medicine.'" About 40% of Hulet's practice involved treatment of TMJ (jaw-joint) problems which he believed almost everyone has. Hulet's revocation took effect on 1/7/94. He may petition for restatement in one year. (ADA News, 2/7/94)
Footnote: According to the Academy of General Dentistry, "holistic" dentistry is on the rise. (AGD Press release, 9/17/93)
Stuart M. Berger, MD died at his Manhattan home on 2/23. Berger was a health book writer and columnist. Berger's books emphasized healing and dieting aimed at improving the immune system. Dr. Berger's Immune Power Diet (1985), a #1 best seller, described how the 6'7" Berger reduced his weight to 210 lbs from 420. At the time of his death he weighed 365 lbs. Berger also wrote How To Be Your Own Nutritionist (1987), and Forever Young--20 years Younger in 20 weeks: Dr. Berger's Step-by-Step Rejuvenation Program (1989); he was 40. (NY Times, 3/1/94).
The worst weight loss promotions for 1993 were:
Acu-Stop 2000 (worst gadget), a plastic device fits into the ear like a hearing aid. Users were to wear it 15-20 minutes, 6 times a day or more to control hunger. It alleged that users could lose 30 lbs in 30 days without dieting or exercise. Slender You tables (worst product) are passive exercise devices that allege to remove "cellulite," reduce fat in specific locations, and provide the benefits of actual exercise. The company claimed that one hour on the device approximated 7 hours of normal exercise. The FTC halted the company's false claims in 1992.
Bodi-trim pills (Worst claim), a Fat-Busters product, guaranteed users that they could lose 70 lbs in 40 days or their money would be refunded. The product claimed to have been discovered by a heart specialist, and alleged to be the most permanent way to lose weight and keep it off. Syncronol 30-minute infomercials (most outrageous) claimed that cellulite cells trap toxins because hardened connective tissue won't let nutrients get to the cells. Seaweed was supposed to be the key to successfully attacking the problem. The FTC charged the company with false claims in selling Anushka Body Contouring Cellulite Gel, Firming Lotion, Multi-revitalizing Cream, and Cellulean tablets. (Obesity & Health, Jan/Feb, 1993)
For 1994, Slim Chance Awards went to:
Dr. Clayton's Natural Program pills (worst claim) contain 13 herbal ingredients to "detoxify the blood and tissues" for "cleansing and healing the bowel." Promoters try to evade federal regulation for safety and efficacy by posing as foods. Fleetwood Tables (worst gadget) are another passive exercise system, whose claims, like 1993's version of the same device, were stopped by the FTC. Revlon Anti-Cellulite (worst product). This mainline cosmetic company used the quack term "cellulite" to promote its Ultima II Pro-Collagen Anti-cellulite body complex until the FTC stopped them. MarTrim (most outrageous) is an herbal product claimed to cause rapid weight loss with no change in diet or exercise by blocking sugar absorption, neutralizing calories and shrinking fat cells. Claims included one of weight loss of 87 lbs in 30 days. (Obesity & Health, Jan-Feb, 1994)
[Obesity & Health is published and edited by Frances M. Berg, MS, LN, Coordinator of NCAHF's Task Force on Weight Loss Abuse.]
Ann Wigmore, 84, founder of the foundation originally known as the Hippocrates Health Institute, but which now bears her name died on Feb. 16 in a fire at the Back Bay, Mass. mansion that houses the organization. Wigmore was known for her extravagant claims for the value of wheatgrass and other sprouts. In 1988, Wigmore signed a consent decree after being sued by the State of Massachusetts for misrepresenting herself as a medical doctor and claiming that her regimen could cure AIDS. Shu Chan, the foundation's director, vowed to continue Wigmore's work. (Boston Globe, 2/17/94)
The American Council on Science and Health has presented the National Resources Defense Council its 1994 Pinocchio Award on the 5th anniversary of the Alar/Apple scare campaign initiated by the group. In 1989, the NRDC and 60 Minutes orchestrated the public relations equivalent of a national disaster by announcing to a prime time TV audience that Alar-treated apples posed an "intolerable risk" of cancer to children. Now that there is virtual unanimity among scientists, including the World Healt h Organization, American Medical Association, and National Cancer Institute that Alar never posed a health risk, the ACS H acknowledged NDRC's notorious act for its "unpara-lleled contribution to the spread of misinformation and unjustified fear." ACSH says that the award will be rescinded when and if the NDRC tells the truth on the matter. (ACSH News Release, 2/26/94; contact: Elizabeth Whelan, DSc or Edward Remmers, PhD at 212-362-7044; fax: 212-362-4919)
Video Remedies, Inc. is marketing a video tape and an accompanying remedy chart entitled "Homeopathic Care of Infants and Children" featuring Dr. Lendon Smith. Dubious remedies are recommended for serious conditions such as measles, mumps, sore throats, ear infections, diarrhea and the flu. Smith, who is well known for his oddball views on nutrition and outlandish style, surrendered his medical license to Oregon authorities in 1987 rather than defend his questionable practices.
The laudable goal of chemical-free farming continues to elude agricultural science according to an article by Leonard Gianessi, senior research associate at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in Washington, DC that appeared in Consumer's Research (12/93). Gianessi describes how the Clinton Administrat-ion's attempts to reform long-standing regulatory policies governing the use of synthetic pesticides are running into scientific and financial obstacles. A Texas A&M study estimates that crop yields would decrease significantly (soybeans 37%, wheat 24%, cotton 39%, rice 57%, peanuts 78%, corn 32%) if available nonchemical methods were substituted. The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions researching nonchemical pest control wit h limited results. Even some of those that work have their own negative side-effects. This article is basic reading to nutrition educators who have to explain the rationale of agricultural practices.
Comment. Nonchemical agriculture has long been a biologist's dream, but this still is far from fulfillment. Fear-mongering journalists, Hollywood star activists, and environmentalists have become so influential on political policymakers that it may be time to remind thought leaders of what happened when Lysenkoism displaced science-based agriculture in the former Soviet Union. Crop failures led to food shortages with attendant effects upon the entire economy and social structure. Inexpensive food is crucial to the American way of life. Everyone would like to see chemical-free agriculture, especially the farmers who must buy and apply them, but the scientific and public health realities do not support a need to alter current agricultural practices. In our view, Organic foods marketing continues to represent misguided idealism and a consumer rip-off.
Footnote: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Organic, an information sheet of the Organic Foods Production Association of North American; Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Program, Residue Monitoring 1992 (also in J AOAC Internat (1993;76 [Sep-Oct]); and, "FDA reports on Pesticides in Foods" (FDA Consumer, 6/93) will be of value to those who follow this public health concern.
The Colorado Board of Nursing has eliminated requirements that RNs take continuing education (CE) courses to renew their licenses. The board cites a study done in Canada which found no increase in competency resulting from CE, but local observers suspect that another reason may have caused the action. For a number of years, skeptics groups have brought concerns about the quality of CE courses before the board. Courses advocating neurolinguistic programming, color therapy, colonics, herbology, therapeutic touch, chakra balancing, acupressure, applied kinesiology, crystal healing, and other pseudosciences were allowed for nursing CE. Critics say that these unscientific practices gain undeserved status by the licensing board's imprimatur of being approved for CE. Proponents tout such approval and use it as a stepping stone to justify applying these methods to patient care. This process bypasses the research standards designed to assure efficacy and patient safety. The board says that it will focus on assuring nurses competency in areas demonstrably related to public protection. It will be up to individual nurses to keep up wit h changes in their field.
Arthur Miller, of Kalona, IL, who treated sick Amish people wit h animal medications, low-level electricity and minerals was sentenced to 4-months in prison and 2-years probation (stayed pending appeal) on 13 counts of practicing medicine without a license. Miller claims to be "an ambassador of God" not subject to human jurisdiction. (Kenosha News (WI), 12/30/93)
A 14-year-old Long Island asthmatic girl died of an allergic reaction following a vitamin injection at a doctor's office. Maximo Chua, MD, whose license has been suspended, practiced acupuncture and vitamin therapy at his Smithtown, NY, office. Chua, an anesthesiologist, will continue to practice acupuncture and whatever else he can do without a medical license. (Newsday, 11/24/93)
Homeopathy was devised by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) as a reaction to practices based upon the ancient humoral theory which he labeled "allopathy." The term has been misapplied to regular medicine ever since. The cardinal principles of homeopathy include that (1) most diseases are caused by an infectious disorder called the psora; (2) life is a spiritual force (vitalism) which directs the body's healing; (3) remedies can be discerned by noting the symptoms that substances produce in overdose (proving), and applying them to conditions with similar symptoms in highly diluted doses (Law of Similia); (4) remedies become more effective with greater dilution (Law of Infinitesimals), and become more dilute by tapping containers on the heel of the hand or a leather pad (potentizing). Homeopathy's principles have been refuted by the basic sciences of chemistry, physics, pharmacology, and pathology. Homeopathy meets the dictionary definitions of a sect and a cult--which prevents advances that would change Hahnemann's original principles. Most homeopathic studies are of poor methodological quality, and are suspected of bias.
Homeopathic product labels do not provide sufficient information to judge their dosages. Although homeopathic remedies are generally thought to be nontoxic due to their high dilutions, some preparations have proved harmful. The ostensible value of homeopathic products can be more than a placebo effect because some products have contained effective amounts of standard medications or have been adulterated. Only about half of the 300 homeopaths listed in the Directory of the National Center for Homeopathy are physicians. Others include naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists, veterinarians, nurses or physician assistants. Homeopathy's appeal lies in its personal attention to patients. Homeopathy is a magnet for untrustworthy practitioners who pose a threat to public safety. A perverse belief in the "healing crisis" causes practitioners to ignore adverse reactions, or to value them as "toxins being expelled." The marketing of homeopathic products and services fits the definition of quackery established by a United States House of Representatives committee which investigated the problem (i.e., the promotion of "medical schemes or remedies known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit").
The United States Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act lists the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States as a recognized compendium, but this status was due to political influence not scientific merit. The FDA has not required homeopathic products to meet the efficacy requirements applied to all other drugs, creating an unacceptable double-standard for drug marketing. The Federal Trade Commission has not taken action against homeopathic product advertising although it clearly does not meet the standards of truthful advertising generally applied to drugs. Postal authorities have not prosecuted mail-order product promoters that make unproven claims for mail fraud. Three states have established homeopathic licensing boards. Some of these have been administrated by medical mavericks with a history of difficulties with former medical licensing boards.
Recommendations: Consumers are advised not to buy homeopathic products or to patronize homeopathic practitioners. Basic scientists are urged to be proactive in opposing the marketing of homeopathic remedies because of conflicts with known physical laws. Those who study homeopathic remedies are warned to beware of deceptive practices in addition to applying sound research methodologies. State and federal regulatory agencies are urged to require homeopathic products to meet the same standards as regular drugs, and to take strong enforcement actions against violators, including the discipline of health professionals who practice homeopathy. State legislatures are urged to abolis h homeopathic licensing boards.
National Council Against Health Fraud. Adopted February, 1994.