Michael Ricotta, the Buffalo, NY man convicted of fraud in the marketing of the REM SuperPro Generator was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara. Arcara told Ricotta: "your sales strategy targeted the most vulnerable people, including those suffering from terminal disease. It is especially cruel because, in many instances, it provided false hope to people who had no hope."
Ricotta claimed that the court had no jurisdiction over him because he was a citizen of the "Republic of New York," not of the USA, but went peacefully with the federal marshals who put him in handcuffs after sentencing. (The Buffalo News, 2/3/94)
The American Cancer Society statement on questionable electronic devices used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer appeared in the March/April issue of CA-Cancer Journal for Clinicians (1994;44:115-127). It includes a brief review of magnetism and electronics, how these are viewed by the health sciences and pseudomedicine, and how devices are regulated by the FDA.
A compendium of questionable electronic devices includes information about Radionics devices (Radioscope, Drown Devices, Rife Frequency Generator, Digitron), Galvanic devices (Energy Medicine, Ellis Microdynameter, Dermatron, Vega, Interro, Hubbard E-Meter, Accupath 1000, Electroacuscope 80, Roscher Probe, QiGong Machine). Others covered are Low-Voltage Current treatment devices, Neurolinometer and Radioclast Treating Unit, unnamed black box device, magnetic devices (super magnets), electromagnetic devices (I-ON-A-CO), negative ion generators (Solarama Board), color and lig ht treatment devices (Spectrochrome, and the full-spectrum fluorescent light theories of John Ott), and ozone generators.
Consumer Reports (CR) (5/94) carried an article, "Public interest pretenders," that did a good job of exposing ostensible consumer groups which are funded by industry, such as an auto consumer group funded by the industry, a Coalition that is challenging the restaurant smoking ban in court supported primarily by tobacco companies, and so forth.
Unfortunately, the article also contains a side-bar titled "Forefront of science, or just a front?" attacking the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) that was extremely unfair and without substance. CR's accusation that ACSH is a "front" was because it receives about 40% of its funding from industry. This was unfair because ACSH makes no attempt to hide this fact publicly listing its donors. ACSH limits the amount it will take from any single source.
CR gave no evidence that industry funding has compromised any of ACSH's reports. After noting that ACSH's director stated that it accepts industry funding only for general operating funds, not earmarked for specific projects, CR did a lateral shift to a different matter of seeking money specifically to disseminate its work. Apparently CR cannot tell the difference between the integrity of a report and its distribution. Those of us who have been reviewers of ACSH reports know that the review process is very thorough, and is as good or better than that used by CR.
Hints of why CR attacked is found in its reference to ACSH's 1994 report Alar Five Years Later: Science Triumphs Over Fear which showed virtual unanimity among scientist that alar was safe when used as intended. CR was on the wrong side of the alar question with its outrageous cover story "Bad apples" (5/89). CR also has taken the fear-mongers side instead of the science of the bovine somatotropin (BST) issue ("Utter insanity," CR, 5/92). CR accuses ACSH of being anti-regulatory, when it actually favors more regulation in many areas of consumer protection.
Another possible reason for the attack may be the influence of CSPI's Michael Jacobson, a Consumer's Union board member, who accused ACSH of industry bias when it first organized and before it had issued a single report.
Having been a member of the ACSH board of advisors (unpaid) since its inception, I can attest to its integrity and credibility. As an associate member of Consumers Union, I am distressed with CR, not only for its unwarranted attack on ACSH, but for taking the fearmonger, rather than the scientific, side of the alar and BST issues.
Correspondence reveals that key members of the present staff believes that public perception is more important than scientific realities in controversial issues. I believe this is folly, for once a consumer organization abandons reality for perception, it become just another voice in the chaos of conflicting public opinions. Science provides a standard because it builds upon a provable base.
Physicians at the Dept. of Clinical Pharmacology, Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Prince of Wales Hospital there, have collaborated on a review of the published work on the dangers of Chinese herbal and proprietary medicines. The article says that in Hong Kong, surveillance and legislation are required to control the use of these medicines, but the government is reluctant to interfere with Chinese culture and practice.
The writers note that traditional Chinese medicines are shipped by mail around the world or brought by visiting friends. Among the hazards are known toxic herbs (10 of 150 most commonly used); adulteration (with cheaper, more toxic substances); inclusion in proprietary medicines of western drugs without warnings of possible side-effects; and, the fact that some contain toxic heavy metals (cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury).
["Chinese herbal medicines revisited: a Hong Kong perspective," The Lancet, 1993;342:1532-4]
Vitaminophiliacs (vitamin-lovers extraordinaire) were stunned by the New England Journal of Medicine report (1994;330:1029-35) from Finland in which male smokers ingested antioxidant dietary supplements or a placebo. The exceptionally high quality intervention study concluded that antioxidants beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol not only did not confer benefits but that they may be harmful.
This finding came as no surprise to NCAHF board member Dr. Victor Herbert who has been saying for several years that antioxidant pills act as redox agents making them pro-oxidant (ie, contributing free radicals to the cellular environment instead of sequestering them as the antioxidant theory of aging proclaims. For proof that Herbert can say "I told you so!" see NCAHF Newsletter, May-June, 1992.
Some reporters have tried to pooh-pooh the findings by noting that the subjects were smokers. This is not a valid criticism for the reasons that (1) the effects of smoking were equalized in the control group; and, (2) vitamin sellers have been proclaiming that antioxidants were "protectors" and included smoking among the many possible things a person could be protected from. The fact is that the value of antioxidants has been more an illusion created by the vitamin hucksters than scientific reality.
Addendum: On 4/29/94, the Vitamin Information Service, a Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc. propaganda agency sent out a packet of previously published reports on the safety of vitamin E and beta carotene. Apparently the vitamin hucksters are concerned about the negative affect on their business that the Finland study results may have.
An Analysis of "The Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low-Back Pain"(1/21/94) by Toronto physician Hamilton Hall is a critique of a 1993 report by Canadian economist Pran Manga. Hall's analysis cites at least 70 points in the Manga report of bias, omission, lack of insight, inappropriate comparison, or other statement that is inconsistent with Manga's conclusions. Copies of the 15-page analysis are available from NCAHF. Send $2 and a double-stamped, business-sized, self-addressed envelope.
Note. According to The Digest of Chiropractic Economics (Mar-Apr, 1994, p.65) January Manga spoke at the Palmer College of Chiropractic in January and "began his presentation by telling students that his own chiropractor is a Palmer graduate." It appears that Manga is a chiropractic devotee who has let his own personal experience color his reporting.
Dr. Lawrence Taylor, 70, and his partner William Stacy, 46, who has posed as a doctor, were arrested on 3/24 at their Hillcrest, California office on charges of grand theft and 30 misdemeanor violations of the state health and safety codes. The men were promoting worthless drugs Immunostim and 714-X for terminal AIDS and cancer patients. (714-X is the concoction from Canada that inspired former congressman Berkeley Bedell to create the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine. )
Taylor got widespread attention in 1991 for treating a Utah boy for cancer who was the focus of a parental dispute in which the mother wanted standard therapy at Mayo and the father wanted Taylor's methods. A Salt Lake City judge allowed for both kinds of treatment. Court records indicate that Taylor reduced the boy's standard drugs. He died that same year. [San Diego Union, 3/25/94]
The Federal Trade Commission has charged two more* individuals and one company in its case against the promoters of Immuno-Plex, an algae-based food supplement, who claimed that their product would treat or cure HIV disease, AIDS, ARC, and their symptoms. Named were Durand Keith Demlow of Durand Demlow Advertising Art (Lake Oswego, OR); Lifeline, Inc. (Albuquerque), and its president Robert B. Danek. [FTC News, 3/8/94]
*See NCAHF Newsletter, Nov-Dec, 1993, p.3
"Vitamin and mineral toxicities: issues related to supplementation practices of athletes"* provides an excellent overview of nutritional supplements as athletic performance (ergogenic) aids. Sirota describes the prevalence of supple-mentation by the population, tells what the RDAs are, and discusses: nutrition supplements as ergogenic aids; the role of vitamins in exercise performance; the paradox of mega-supplementation; vitamin and mineral toxicities: the myth of safety; water soluble vitamins; fat-soluble vitamins; minerals; foods as sources of vitamin / mineral toxicities, and whether currently known toxic levels can be your only guide.
*Sirota LH. J Health Ed, 1994;25:(2):82-8
The San Francisco Chronicle (4/20/94) reports on an outbreak of whooping cough at the Starchild Waldorf Preschool in Sonoma County (Calif) that is the result of anti-immunization beliefs of the families who send their children there (they also reject antibiotic therapy). Last year, another Waldorf school in the Santa Rosa area experienced a measles outbreak for the same reason.
Waldorf schools are associated wit h Anthroposophical Medicine (AM) AM is an organization of the disciples of Rudolph Steiner. Steiner called for a rejection of materialism as a basis for scientific research; he believed that the concept of God and that the "the divine element in nature" should be introduced into the scientific enterprise. Steiner's published works are said to be over 300 volumes that cover art, religion, science and agriculture. His concept of biodynamic farming involved composting manure to enrich the soil; a method to produce foodstuffs that would nourish the spirit as well as the body ..
AM practitioners frequently prescribe homeopathic remedies, study of musical instruments, social service projects, prayer and meditation . There are some 300 Waldorf Schools in 21 countries, with about 19 in North America. James Randi has criticized the Steiner schools for teaching children to cast horoscopes and to believe that sprites inhabit trees and rocks .
Citations. 1. East/West J, 3/84; 2. Time, 4/13/92. [Note: It is not necessary for 100% of a population to be immunized to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases as long as the unprotected are spread throughout society, but when nonimmunized people cluster together for substantial time periods (such as in a school), outbreaks are likely to occur.]
The so-called "focal infection theory," popular in the early 1900s, is being touted by Root Canal Cover-up Exposed! by George Meinig, DDS. The idea is that bacteria trapped in the dentin tubules can escape and be transported to other organs of the body where they start a whole new infection process.
The theory led to the unnecessary removal of millions of teeth in a misguided effort to cure diseases supposedly caused by root canal therapy. Anti-dental amalgam guru, Hal Huggins, DDS, of Colorado also supports Meinig's notions and is mentioned in the book.
The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) now offers a patient education brochure titled Are Your Root Canals Making You Sick? and a statement on the focal infection theory and a selected bibliography. These may be obtained from the AAE at 211 E. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611; call 1-800-USA-ENDO for information.
George Meinig is a Fellow of the Price-Pottenger Foundation, a proponent of dubious nutrition and health ideas related to dentistry. William Jarvis detailed some of these in a chapter on the problem of food faddism within dentistry in the textbook Nutrition In Oral Health and Disease (Lea & Febiger, 1985).
Two companies and three individuals who market pin-hole eyeglasses have agreed to settle FTC charges that they made false and unsubstantiated claims about the vision-improvement benefits of their product. $425,000 will be put into a fund for consumer redress. [FTC News Notes, 1994;94:(Issue 11):1]
A study in which 177 California neurologists responded to the survey conducted by the Stanford Stroke Center found that within a 2-year period, 56 strokes had occurred among patients within 24-hours after receiving neck manipulation by a chiropractor. One patient died and 86% were left with permanent impairment. Most (53/56) involved intervertebral artery damage. The age range of patients affected was 21-60 with most occurring in young individuals. [From abstract: Carlini et al. "Incidence of stroke following cervical chiropractic manipulation" to be published near the end of 1994.]
Comment: The risk of stroke following neck manipulation is well-known. NCAHF warned of this problem in its 1985 position paper on chiropractic. Proponents estimate the risk of chiro neck manipulation to be 1/million. We calculate that 56 strokes in 2 years in California alone at 1/million means that the state's 9200 DCs performed 56 million neck manipulations in 2 years; or 6,087 each (3,043.5 per yr). At 5 days/ week for 50 weeks, this would only be a little over 12 neck manipulations per work day, so the 1/million estimate seems quite plausible.
The possibility that repeated neck manipulation injures the fragile lining of the intervertebral artery increasing the risk of a stroke at some time beyond the 24-hour time period is a very real possibility. If this is true, the number found in this study underestimates the risk. Thus, 1/million is a conservative estimate of the risk. This risk must be measured against the proven benefit of chiropractic neck manipulation which, in the face of a total absence of value is zero! The message is clear:
DO NOT ALLOW A CHIROPRACTOR TO MANIPULATE YOUR NECK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
Forbes magazine makes Deepak Chopra, MD, look more like Bozo the Clown than Robert Fulton (as in "they laughed at---") in "Lord of Immortality*" (4/11/94). Chopra is portrayed as "the latest in a line of gurus who have prospered by blending pop science, pop psychology and pop Hinduism. The message: You can wish yourself young."
The article quotes Dr. George Solomon, a pioneer in the field of psychoneuro-immunology as saying that Chopra may be doing the mind/body field of medicine a disservice by his overstatements and failure to adhere to science. When pressed for scientific evidence, says Forbes, Chopra proclaims that he has a medical degree (from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi), and states, "I am not at all attached to the scientific worldview at the moment. I see myself as a bum on the street who has a lot of fun writing." The article describes some of Chopra's current financial interests, including his consultant role at San Diego's Center for Mind Body Medicine where people spend $1,125 to $3,200 for a "purification" treatment of massages and herbal cures, plus lectures on ayurveda.
[*The title conferred upon Chopra by TM guru Maharishi Mehesh Yogi (see NCAHF Newsletter, July-August, 1991)]
A double-blind, controlled trial with two groups of children, 25 normal (3-5 yrs) and 23 (6-10 yrs) described by their parents as sensitive to sugar, found that "even when intake exceeds typical dietary levels, neither dietary sucrose nor aspartame affects children's behavior or cognitive function." [New Engl J Med, 1994;330:301-7]
A weight loss product called Quicky, manufactured by Neways, Inc. of Salem, Utah, was recalled by the FDA in November. Although the product's label stated that it contained only papaya, kelp, garlic, and lactose, in fact, it contained a full medical dose (33.5 mg per capsule) of furosemide, a potent, prescription-only diuretic. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 11/13/93]
Applied Kinesiology (AK)* (aka, Contact Reflex Analysis, Dental Kinesiology, or Behavioral Kinesiology) is a procedure in which resistance-response (aka, "muscle strength testing") explorations of an extended arm or leg is "tested" while a person is subjected to various influences (foods, vitamins, herbs, homeopathic remedies, music, colors, etc.). Weak responses are interpreted as "bad," and strong responses as "good." These form the basis for making diagnoses, prescriptions, food selections, or other health-related choices. [Note: AK is not part of the science-based field of Kinesiology, ie, "the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement" Webster's Dictionary.]
AK has been associated with a number of cases of serious harm. A New York chiropractor used it to demonstrate alleged improvements in learning disabled children. The physical and psychological damage done to the kids by his treatments resulted in a $565,000 jury award.
On the instructions of a holistic dentist, AK was employed as a way of testing the "purity" of foods by the family of a diabetic who died while trying to substitute vitamins for insulin. His wife (an RN!) refused to accept the reality of his death keeping his mummified body in the house for 8-years.
The technique was used by a clinical ecologist to tell a mother that her children were not allergic to peanuts with the result that when given peanut butter their allergic reactions nearly killed them. He eventually lost his license to practice medicine for employing nonscientific techniques. AK was used by an Arizona chiropractor to assure a patient that she did not have cancer. She subsequently died due to lack of treatment. He was suspended from practice.
Controlled studies of AK have repeatedly shown that responses are random under conditions where both the tester and test subject are unaware of the substance being tested, but the AK experience can be very persuasive under uncontrolled conditions because people can definitely feel the differences in responses. The subjective experience can be overwhelming and turns many patients into believers.
AK's originator, chiropractor George Goodheart, organized the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) in an effort to gain some control over the practice and its claims. Goodheart once expressed skepticism about using AK to choose one's personal lucky star (subjects were tested while pointing at various candidate stars). Over time, ICAK has become more conservative in its claims for AK and now states that it is not valid used by itself. [Applied Kinesiology Status Statement, International College of Applied Kinesiology--USA, 6/16/92 ]
Explanations of what is actually happening in AK responses range from trickery by practitioners, who may vary the point of contact on the lever (arm or leg) thus improving their mechanical advantage whenever they want to obtain a weak response; or, who catch the subject off-guard to elicit weakness versus telegraphing the test thus allowing a split-second for the subject to prepare their response. However, I believe that it may be a mistake to dismiss all AK practitioners as tricksters. It may be that AK users are fooling themselves through the uncontrolled use of a potentially useful psychological assessment tool. Just as Mesmerism unwittingly exploited the power of suggestion--the same potent psycho-physiological phenomenon of clinical hypnosis--AK may be a means of testing for the psychological make-up of subjects (eg, conditioning, expectation, suggestibility or other personality factors). On the other hand, AK could turn out to be unreliable or not as good as other tests now in use. Unfortunately, we are not aware of anyone who is studying AK scientifically to find its valid use.