The Institute of Community Medicine at the University of Tromso, Norway asked 1135 randomly selected doctors and 197 acupuncturists to report adverse effects they had seen caused by acupuncture. Reports of harm came from 12% of the doctors and 31% of the acupuncturists.
Researchers believe that this is an underestimate of adverse effects because some are never reported by the patient. Since only 10% of Norwegian doctors were surveyed, the actual numbers of adverse effects are likely to be ten times greater than these numbers represent. Researchers note that acupuncturists encounter mostly immediate adverse effects, while doctors encounter adverse effects seen some time later. They conclude that adverse effects by acupuncture are more than "occasional," and that there should be an increased focus on who should practice acupuncture.
[The Lancet, 1995;345:1576]
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) have agreed to settle FTC allegations that they made false and unsubstantiated claims in advertising and promoting their cancer treatments. Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc. based in Arlington, IL, Midwestern Regional Medical Center, Inc. based in Zion, IL, and Memorial Medical Center and Cancer Institute based in Tulsa, OK (at the former Oral Roberts University) advertise and dispense both inpatient and outpatient cancer treatments under the trade name "Cancer Treatment Centers of America."
Among the claims in question were that using "whole body hyperthermia" and "brachytheraphy," they were able to successfully treat certain forms of cancer unresponsive to conventional treatment. CTCA was also unable to substantiate a claim that its 5-year survivorship rate had ranked among the highest recorded for cancer patients. The proposed settlement would require CTCA to substantiate future claims regarding the success or efficacy of its treatments, and ensure that the testimonials it uses do not misrepresent the typical experience of its patients.
The FTC complaint addressed only the false and misleading nature of CTCA advertising, not the quality of care it offers. For more information contact Brenda Mack at the FTC Office of Public Affairs, 202-326-2182. [FTC News March 13, 1996]
Melatonin has gotten so much promotion in the press that one wonders if perhaps the media reporters' retirement fund is heavily invested in the product! Finally an article has come to our attention that is authoritative. Reppert and Weaver review melatonin--what it is, what it can do, and what it cannot do, in "Melatonin Madness," which appeared in the journal Cell, Dec. 29, 1995 (Vol 83, pp.1059-62). Reppert and Weaver are associated with the Laboratory of Developmental Chronobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Forty-nine cases of salmonella poisoning in Oregon were traced to alfalfa sprouts grown from contaminated seeds. The sprouts, marketed as Perfect Sprouts and Country Sprouts, were grown in Kentucky. Another 49 cases were reported in British Columbia from the same lot of sprouts. [The Oregonian 2/10/96]
A 71-page report by Administrative Law Judge Nancy Connick provides substantive information on the bogus theories and practices of maverick dentist Hal Huggins, and reveal the harm visited on 8 patients representative of Huggins' treatment protocol.
The report reads like a primer on dental quackery. Huggins based his theories on strong personal belief, not on scientific evidence. MS patients formed a substantial portion of his patients. The report says that by 1980, he had treated over 400 MS patients. He blatantly lied, telling some patients he had cured himself of MS when he had never had the disease.
Huggins charged each patient $6,000 for his program, plus the cost of the actual dentistry. He treated about 250 patients per year. Huggins also lied when he claimed to have thousands of publications in his library which supported his ideas. He also lied about having done studies himself on the effects of dental amalgam upon health.
The report includes critical analyses of studies upon which he relies that purport to show that dental amalgams are unsafe. Huggins also made false representations that root canal therapy was dangerous, which is based upon the dubious writings of George Meinig, DDS, who relied upon the flawed work of Weston Price, DDS, done in the 1920s. Other specious practices included bogus diagnostic procedures and both worthless and hazardous treatment procedures.
Huggins did inappropriate procedures such as administering EDTA chelation therapy to remove mercury from the body. EDTA binds lead, not mercury, making it useless. His addition of vitamin C to the intravenous solution increased the hazard of the infusion to the kidneys.
The reports of what happened to 8 patients are stories of human tragedies. Huggins often videoed patients during periods when they were optimistic, using them as testimonials to prove the value of his methods.
Reading the details of patient abuse helps put the harm done by quackery into focus. Connock concluded that "Given his steadfast and longstanding commitment to his theories in the face of substantial reasoned evidence to the contrary, it is evident that nothing will stop (him) from practicing the treatments he has developed short of revocation of his license to practice dentistry" which she did on Feb 29. State law allows a one-mont h period for exceptions to be filed before the Board of Dental Examiners can act on the judge's decision. That period ended on March 29. The board will take up the case at its May 1 meeting. No exceptions had been filed at the time we inquired March 28.
After reviewing existing toxicity studies, France's Superior Council for Public Health has set new limits on the amount of the minerals selenium, fluoride, zinc, and the vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, niacin and folic acid, in over-the-counter supplements. The Council's Pierre Louisot says "there is a total absence of critical sense when it comes to vitamins." He says that people are willing to believe every small study extolling the ability of vitamins and minerals to prevent diseases such as cancer.
Gerard Pascal, director of the French National Center for Coordination of Studies on Nutrition and Food says that contrary to popular belief, people can take too many antioxidants. Pascal added that "After an exhaustive search of the scientific literature on food and cancer the only indisputable conclusion which can be drawn is that eating lots of fruits and vegetables offers some protection from digestive tract cancers." [New Scientist, 2/10/96:8]
One-half cup of broccoli (frozen) costs $.32 compared to $2.04 for the same amount as a vegetable pill supplement, says Dr. Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health (broccoli $.99 10 oz. pkg compared to 17 pills @ $.12). [Priorities, 1995;7(4):36]
A survey of retailers by Towne-Oller Associates found that Ginsana, a ginseng product, is the best selling herbal supplement with 17.7% of the market. Ginseng is touted as able to improve physical performance and mental alertness.
A review by the Sport Psychology Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin* found that ginseng's efficacy has been based upon subjective experience and testimonials rather than science. While studies on animals show that ginseng may prolong survival (mice can run or swim longer), there is no good evidence that human performance is enhanced by ginseng. Effects on mental performance are also mixed with little reason to believe the laudatory advertising claims.
Ginseng is an interesting plant and some properties are present that have physiological and psychological effects. The problem is that there not only are several different kinds of ginseng, but even a single root can yield different substances. One researcher says that there are 3 different central nervous system (CNS) depressants and 2 different CNS stimulants in Panax ginseng root.
We anticipate a substantial increase in ginseng promotions in the near future. Plantations of ginseng are maturing in both Canada and the USA (it takes 6 to 12 years to bring roots to maturity). Considering how long it has taken to get a clear picture of the healt h effects of coffee, it will take many years of common use of standardized products before it will be known if ginseng is safe or effective for anything. There appear to be millions of human beings willing to pay for the privilege of being guinea pigs for this long term experiment.
[*Bahrke & Morgan. "Evaluating the ergogenic properties of ginseng," Sports Medicine, 1994;18(4):229-48.]
One of the most frequent questions media reporters ask is "what is the most ridiculous bit of quackery you have ever seen?" Such a question always stumps me. Leading candidates for such a "booby prize" include eating pond scum for health, drinking one's own urine, nose hairs are antennae for picking up cosmic energy, homosexuality is caused by eating protein that has been denatured by microwave ovens, and the food combining notions of Harvey Diamond.
However, the latest cancer cure has to be a leading contender. It is that all cancer is caused by a parasite (the human intestinal fluke Fasciolopsis buskii) and is cured by black walnut hulls, wormwood capsules, and ground cloves in just three weeks. The same is said for the cause and cure of AIDS. These claims are made by Hulda Regehr Clark, "PhD, ND" who claims to have a scientific background in "government funded research," but who went off on her own doing "private consulting" in 1979.
According to an investigative reporter, Clark self-publishes her books (the book on cancer is modestly entitled The Cure For All Cancers) which her son sells to health food stores up and down the west coast out of the trunk of his car. She now is operating a clinic in the facility once used by the late cancer quack Harold Manner. Clark's claims are so dramatic, and the alleged cure so simple, that it should be easy to test. Clark's books are loaded with case histories, but there is no way to contact the people whose names are used. The fact that people are willing to believe the information in this book serves as somewhat of a gauge of the ignorance of the public on the causes and treatment of cancer.
Houston, Texas physician Mohammed Kakvan was found grossly negligent in the 1992 death of Frank Vecchio, 61, owner of Del Vecchio Foods distribution company. Kakvan treated Vecchio's heart disease with ineffective chelation therapy. Chelation therapy for vascular disease has been condemned by the National Institutes of Health and every scientific medical organization that has reviewed it. [Physician Financial News, February, 1996, p.3]
Minnesota law states that a person is practicing medicine without a license if he/she "offers or undertakes to prevent or to diagnose, correct or treat in any manner or by any means, methods, devices or instrumentalities, any disease, illness, pain, wound, fracture, infirmity, deformity or defect of any person." The law had been challenged as overbroad and vague by the attorney for Herbert Saunders, the Odin, Minnesota farmer who for years sold colostrum from cows injected with blood of disease sufferers. In advance of a retrial, Watonwan County District Judge Terry Dempsey asked the Appeals Court to consider whether the law is "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad." The Appeals Court stated that it believed that the law is written "with sufficient particularity to show which conduct is prohibited." [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 1/16/96].
Comment: This case has potent political overtones because former Congressman Berkley Bedell, the "mind" behind the formation of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine reportedly contributed $20,000 to Saunders' defense. Bedell believes that Saunders cured his lyme disease. We can be thankful that Minnesota has a capable and committed consumer protection oriented Attorney General in Hubert Humphrey III.
Although not aimed specifically at quackery, some new books available at the NCAHF Book Sales deal with consumer fraud and the need for consumer protection.
Orders should be sent with a check payable to "NCAHF Books," P.O. Box 1747, Allentown, PA 18105 (no credit cards). NCAHF members subtract 10% from the above prices. Postage: U.S. orders, $2.50 for the first book and $1 for each additional book. Canada: US$3+$2 each additional book; Other countries: US$5+$2 each additional book.
Consumer complaints of nausea, diarrhea, weakness, numbness and tingling have caused NCAHF to review the literature on the toxic potential of blue-green algae products. We believe that such adverse reactions are quite common and are being ignored.
Sales people are falsely telling customers that such symptoms are due to "cleansing" by the body. This idea is based upon a naturopathic myth that diseases are due to autointoxication, and that poisons are being expelled from the body that would have produced future diseases if they had not been purged; and further, that the worse are the adverse reactions, the worse would have been the disease if they had not detoxified themselves. In other words, if one feels better after taking the concoction it is proof that it is beneficial, conversely, if one feels worse, it is a blessing in disguise (ie, good is good, bad is good!)
The psychology of such an explanation is "heads I win, tails you lose!" The concept of "Detoxification" not only has no medical validity, it can be deadly because people are taught to ignore symptoms that may indicate a need for medical attention. Those who experience suc h reactions are urged to report them to the FDA.
Maverick veterinarian Joel Wallach is selling video and audio tapes titled Dead Doctors Don't Lie! proclaiming that physicians have a life expectancy of only 58 years. This sends the message that doctors are so wrongheaded that they themselves live significantly shorter lives than the general population.
It is not clear where Wallach gets his data, but it is a lie. Physicians have long had life expectancies that are longer than the general population. Goodman  reviewed reports on physician life expectancies in 1925, 1938-42, 1949-51, and 1971. His study covered the 1971 population of 344,823 physicians, and the deaths of 19,086 from 1969 through 1973. He found that both male and female physicians had greater life expectancy than the general population.
The American Medical Association's Center For Health Care Policy published data on the life expectancies of U.S. medical graduate physicians by specialty in 1988.  It showed that the life expectancy of physicians is somewhere between 75 and 88, depending upon the age and gender that one chooses.
Wallach also claims to have been nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1991. According to the Nobel Committee, this would be impossible for him to know because the names of nominees are confidential. Wallach could have been "nominated" by himself or one of his admirers, but that would not make him a serious candidate. The Nobel Committee denies that Wallach has ever been a legitimate Nobel Prize nominee.
NCAHF has been aware of Wallach's activities for many years. In the early 1980s Wallach worked out of the Northcoast Naturopathic Clinic at Cannon Beach, Oregon, where he practiced as a "Manner Metabolic Physician." This designation meant that he dispensed a the unapproved cancer therapy centered around laetrile (cyanide derived from apricot pits).
In 1990, Wallach appeared as a naturopathic doctor in an advertisement for Hospital Santa Monica, a clinic in Tijuana operated by the notorious Kurt Donsbach. In 1993, NCAHF received a call from a consumer in the state of Virginia who reported that Wallach was involved in the multilevel marketing of vitamins and hydrogen peroxide.
In 1995 NCAHF received a report from a consumer in California who stated that Wallach was dispensing chelation therapy for coronary artery disease at a clinic in San Francisco. The caller was concerned because her father-in-law had died following Wallach's care. He had become very weak, but Wallach had poisoned him against returning to his regular physician, so he did not seek medical help. His wife, who is also a disciple of Wallach's ideas and health care, had the body cremated.
The mother-in-law has completed her course of chelation therapy, but still returns every 1-2 months for more. On Wallach's advice, she also ingests a "toddy mix" that looks like "muddy water" [Note: this sounds very much like a Rockland International company product called Body Toddy that was banned by the FDA due to its high levels of toxic substances , especially since Donsbach was associated with Rockland].
According to promotional materials, Wallach works with a Dr. MaLan who was educated in the People's Republic of China. It is not clear whether or not she is licensed to practice medicine in the United States. Since neither of his credentials as a veterinarian or a naturopath enables him to practice medicine (ie, render chelation therapy) in California, it is unclear whether he is blatantly disregarding the law, or is operating under Dr. MaLan's medical license (if she has one). The mother-in-law seems to be a victim beyond help. She has a diploma from Donsbach University and sold Sunrider products for a while. She quit when she heard about lawsuits against Sunrider, fearing that she might be named as a defendant.
Citations. 1) Goodman, "Longevity and mortality of American physicians, 1969-73," MMFQ Summer, 1975:353-75; 2) "Expected life and work life of active USMG physicians" in Physician Supply & Utilization By Specialty, AMA, 1988; 3) FDA Enforcement Report, 10/4/89.
A Canadian woman's experience in the nether world of cancer quackery Some believe that there is nothing to lose from trying unapproved therapies if there is no real medical solution. Margaret Baker discovered the fallacy of that idea after accompanying her sister-in-law (Helen) to a Mexico clinic where she witnessed the plight of a desperate cancer patient in search of a cure. Ms. Baker contributed her story to NCAHF in the hope that other cancer patients considering such courses of action might benefit from the experience. Her 8-page narrative cannot be fitted into the limited space of this newsletter, so we have presented only an abstract. The full article -- An Experience in a Mexican Cancer Clinic -- is available on this site.
In 1992 Helen was treated for breast cancer. She had some metastasis, but was considered a good candidate for a stem cell transplant. While preparing for this it was found that she also had advanced colon cancer. Doctors were discouraged, but would have continued treatment had Helen not been diverted to quackery by her colonics practitioner, who showed Helen a video on ozone treatment that made it sound like the answer to her problem.
Helen's hope lay in Juarez, Mexico, at the clinic of chiropractor Gerald Hall. Hall claimed to be persecuted by the medical establishment. He told Helen that a former partner was doing time in Florida, and that he barely missed the same fate. He gave a daily diatribe against the AMA, the U.S. government, and the Rockefeller Foundation. The latter was said to be shipping guillotines from France to be used against free spirits like himself in POW camps across the United States. Although he resides in Texas, Hall works in Mexico under the license of Nora de la Parra, MD, who sometimes helps Hall, but doesn't appear to endorse his methods.
Ozone treatment was not central to Hall's regimen. In spite of Helen's expressed interest and the presence of ozone tents at the clinic, neither she nor any other patient was given ozone treatment the first 6 weeks they were there. When it was administered, it consisted of injecting gaseous ozone into Helen's catheter three or four times. In addition to ozone, Hall employs several "black boxes": the Vega machine, a "Red Light" box, and the High Frequency Radiator.
Hall diagnoses cancer by aligning the length of a person's legs. At the first examination, Hall stated that mercury from Helen's dental fillings was leaching into the breast and causing cancer. Rather than replacing the fillings, Hall had a Mexican dentist extract four teeth (he planned to have a total of 8 extracted, but did not complete this). The extracted teeth were collected so he could have them ground up and injected back into her body--which he never got around to doing.
Helen also received massages (some painful), colonics, and intravenous herbal drips. Hall bragged that he was one of only five people in the world trained to do certain chiropractic adjustments that Helen "needed." From the start he said that he would use his skills to relive her back pain, but never got around to it.
From time to time, Helen would get x-rays and medical care at a legitimate hospital across the border in El Paso. Although x-rays revealed obvious advanced disease, Hall tried to maintain the fiction that he was curing her. The reality of the situation was apparent to everyone but Helen. Hall tried to extract more money, but the other players would not go along.
Helen received a great deal of care and comfort from friends and standard medical professionals. Curiously, although she received substantial services at El Paso's Columbia Hospital, she was not charged (NCAHF's guess is that the hospital did not wish to incur liability by making her a fee-for-service patient, but wanted to provide for her medical needs on a humanitarian basis).
What were the costs of Helen's odyssey in search of hope? She and her family spent roughly $40,000 in Canadian funds ($30,000 US), part of which was raised by a second mortgage on the family home. Helen suffered a lot of physical pain from Hall's off-beat treatments, and relying upon Hall instead of competent care may have shortened Helen's survival time. Helen also suffered psychological pain as she rode the hope-despair roller coaster that quacks put people on, as lies that they are making good progress are followed by the undeniable realities that the disease is worsening.
The greatest price, Margaret Baker notes, was the loss of two precious months that Helen could have spent with her three daughters. Helen's ordeal ended in August, 1994; she was 51.