The Board of Directors of The National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc. (NCAHF) has decided to do business using the organization's legal name and no longer as the National Council for Reliable Health Information (NCRHI). From July/August 1998 through November/December 2000, our newsletter was published under the name NCRHI Newsletter. We start our 2001 publication year with a return to using NCAHF in the title of our print newsletter. Subscriptions to our free weekly e-mail newsletter Consumer Health Digest are available at our Web site: http://www.ncahf.org.
Chiropractic: The Greatest Hoax of the Century? By L. A. Chotkowski (Kensington, CT: New England Books, 1998; ISBN 0-9657855-1-3) is now available through NCAHF Book Sales for $15 ($13.50 for NCAHF members) plus $2.50 postage and handling (Pennsylvania residents add 6% sales tax.) In a review of the book published in the Fall/Winter 2000 issue of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, NCAHF Past President William T. Jarvis, PhD wrote:
Readers with only average knowledge about chiropractic are likely to judge Dr. Chotkowski's book to be overly exaggerated, and biased. After all, it is written by a physician. Reasonable people simply have difficulty believing that lawmakers would legitimize a health-care guild as bereft of a scientific basis and as flawed in every way as is chiropractic. To have credibility with audiences, I have found it necessary to understate the facts about chiropractic, but Dr. Chotkowsky [sic] tells the straight truth with the insight of a physician, and by doing so inherits the liability of the possible disbelief of his readers.
WHITE HOUSE COMMISSION ON CAM
LACKS HEALTHY SKEPTICISM
President Clinton appointed James S. Gordon, MD, the director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC to chair the newly created White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Dr. Gordon is the author of Manifesto for a New Medicine: Your Guide to Healing Partnerships and the Wise Use of Alternative Therapies and Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Alternative, Complementary and Conventional Therapies. Joining Dr. Gordon on the Commission is Wayne Jonas, M.D., a promoter of homeopathy who directed the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. Among the other appointees are a leader of naturopathy; a chiropractor; a dentist who promotes nonsensical treatment methods such as contact reflex analysis and cranial osteopathy; an herbal medicine practitioner; acupuncturists; a "Qigong Grandmaster;" supplement entrepreneurs; and an herbal medicine practitioner. Outspoken critics of pseudoscience and superstition in healthcare are not represented on the Commission, which has been charged with addressing:
The Commission's recommendations on public policy and legislation are due to the President through the Secretary of Health and Human Services in March 2002.
"Clearly, the composition of this commission is not conducive to providing sound advice to the president concerning questionable and unproven claims and those who make them," wrote NCAHF Board member Tim Gorski, MD and E. Patrick Curry [White House Commission Stacked Against Science. The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine 5(1):7-8, 2001.]
Jack Raso, MS, RD, coordinator of NCAHF's Task Force on Dubious Health Care Credentials, described in Priorities for Health [12(3):28-30, 41; 2000] magazine how he could have obtained for Meenoh Raso summa cum laude diplomas for doctorates in public health, osteopathy, or alternative medicine at a cost of $1,400. Meenoh is Jack's pet Chihuahua. The organization offering the diploma to Raso was "Brentwick University," which used a London, England mailing address. Raso's story can be read at http://www.acsh.org.
Previously Brentwick University was known as Harrington University, and recently it has been promoted as the University of Devonshire, according to "Doctorates in Quackery," an article by Laura Williams published in The New York Post on January 7, 2001. [See: http://www.nypost.com/01072001/news/nationalnews/20681.htm.] Among the other diploma mills mentioned by Williams were Edison University, LaSalle University (presumably not the real LaSalle), and Capitol University.
According to Williams, the mother of eight-year-old diabetic Helena Rose Kolitwnzew noted the prestigious-looking degrees Laurence Perry had at the operated a clinic out of his North Carolina home. His "credentials" included a doctor of medicine from the British West Indies Medical College, a doctor of nutritional medicine by the American Nutritional Medical Association, and a doctor of medicine from Lafayette Unviersity (not the prestigious Pennsylvania College). Perry is awaiting trial for manslaughter and practicing without a license after he allegedly urged the child's mother to use herbs rather than insulin to treat the child. [See NCRHI Newsletter, November/December 1999, p. 3.] Williams cites degree-mill watchdog John Bear who says that two of Perry's alma maters were operated by Gregory Caplinger who was recently featured on "America's Most Wanted."
According to NCAHF Vice President Stephen Barrett, MD, Caplinger himself "does not have a bona fide medical degree and has made more claims and accumulated more questionable "credentials" than any other impostor I have ever investigated or heard of." He became a fugitive wanted by the FBI after a North Carolina jury convicted him on July 20, 2000 of wire fraud and money laundering related to investments in "Immustim," a concoction he claimed was effective in the treatment of several chronic diseases. Caplinger failed to show up to hear the verdict and is now a fugitive wanted by the FBI.
In the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals [509 U.S. 579 (1993)], the United States Supreme Court established a standard for trial judges to assess whether a "testimony's underlying reasoning or methodology is scientifically valid and properly can be applied to the facts at issue."
Larry Sarner, who chairs the National Therapeutic Touch Study Group, and Linda Rosa, RN, who coordinates NCAHF's Questionable Nurse Practices Task Force argue that the Daubert standard puts Therapeutic Touch practitioners at risk when they are sued by patients who suffer harm that could have been averted by science-based care. Sarner and Rosa present their case in "Using Daubert to Aid the Injured: A Case of Therapeutic Touch" [Quinnipiac Health Law 3:25-35;2000].
Therapeutic Touch practitioners claim to be able to heal many health problems through manual manipulation of a "Human Energy Field." However, there is no scientific evidence that what the practitioners claim to manipulate actually exists. It would not help TT practitioners when they have to defend themselves in malpractice cases judged according to the Daubert standard to argue that TT is part of the nursing art that relies upon a non-scientific other way of knowing. According to Sarner and Rosa, "other ways of knowing, so much a part of the public argument for 'alternative' therapies are not only irrelevant in a case of malpractice, but are inconsistent with the very core belief that the law shares with science-that there is an objective reality." Moreover: "Other ways of knowing are just not as satisfactory as science in providing triers of fact with facts, especially when those other ways often deny that knowing anything is even possible." [Emphasis in original.]
John Dodes, DDS, president of the New York Chapter of NCAHF provides a general introduction to the problem of quackery in "Alternative Therapy: An Historical Perspective on Health Fraud," which was published as part of a special section on "Health Care Fraud" in the Quinnipiac Health Law journal [3:37-57, 2000].
Bill 2, "An Act to amend to the Medicine Act, 1991," which was passed by the Legislature of the Province of Ontario, Canada on December 21, 2000, appears to relieve maverick physicians of the burden of proof to demonstrate that the potential for benefit of their treatments exceeds the potential for harm. The Act, which was introduced by Monte Kwinter, MPP, York Centre, reads:
A member shall not be found guilty of professional misconduct or of incompetence under section 51 or 52 of the Health Professions Procedural Code solely on the basis that the member practises a therapy that is non-traditional or that departs from the prevailing medical practice unless there is evidence that proves that the therapy poses a greater risk to a patient's health than the traditional or prevailing practice.
Comment: NCAHF believes that health products and services should be: proved safe and effective before marketing with proponents bearing the burden of such proof; accurately labeled or fully described; and truthfully advertised. Kwinter's amendment is an attempt to free deviant physicians from accountability to peers and patients.
Jerry Green, M.D. claims to have been the instigator, author, and promoter of Bill 2.
The Select Committee on Science and Technology of the House of Lords included 44 recommendations in its comprehensive report on "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" (CAM) released in November. Many of the recommendations refer to a classification scheme used in the report to organize therapies into three groups.
Group 1, called "Professionally Organised Alternative Therapies" contains acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and osteopathy. The Lords report says: "Each of these therapies claims to have an individual diagnostic approach and are seen as the 'Big 5' by most of the CAM world."
Group 2, called "Complementary Therapies" contains Alexander technique, aromatherapy, Bach and other flower remedies, body work therapies including massage, counselling stress therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, reflexology, Shiatsu, spiritual healing, Maharishi Ayurvedic Medicine, nutritional medicine, and Yoga. Therapies in this group "are most often used to complement conventional medicine and do not purport to embrace diagnostic skills."
Group 3, called "Alternative Disciplines" contains two subgroups. Group 3a contains "Long-established and traditional systems of healthcare:" Anthroposophical medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Eastern Medicine (Tibb), Naturopathy, and Traditional Chinese medicine. Group 3b contains "Other alternative disciplines:" crystal therapy, dowsing, iridology, kinesiology (which it describes as a system of muscle testing for nutritional and other imbalance rather than as the recognized science of the mechanics of muscle motion), and Radionics. Both subgroups include disciplines "which purport to offer diagnostic information as well as treatment and which, in general, favour a philosophical approach and are indifferent to the scientific principles of conventional medicine, and through which various and disparate frameworks of disease causation and its management are proposed."
Recommendations by the Committee address issues concerning: determination of levels of CAM use in the population; scientific evidence to validate diagnostic procedures and therapies; regulation of professions, therapies, and products; professional training and education; research; information dissemination; and delivery of CAM therapies.
[Complementary and alternative medicine. House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, 6th report. 1999-2000 (HL123), The Stationery Office, London (£15.50).
Comment: Some of the Committee's recommendations acknowledge the need for therapies to be evidenced-based and the need for consumer protection. However, many of the recommendations are likely to promote non-evidence-based practices and undermine consumer protection. Regulating or providing professional training on an irrational system of healthcare is likely to give it undeserved respectability. To provide government funding to encourage research on implausible methods of healthcare is to shift funding away from more promising projects.
Baja California state health officials ordered Salt Lake City-based BioPulse International, Inc. to shut down its Tijuana clinic on February 15, 2001. The state's Public Health Service Institute also banned BioPulse International from advertising its cancer treatment, but determined that homeopathic treatments at the clinic were properly licensed. However weeks later, according to BioPulse International's Board of Directors, the clinic was open for business.
On February 16th the state health officials closed down the Century Nutrition clinic operated by Hulda Clark, PhD, ND. Inspectors reportedly said that Century Nutrition appears to have been operating without any license. Asked whether she was registered with Mexican Health authorities, Dr. Clark told San Diego Union-Tribune reporters, "Of courseI'm perfectly legal."
In order to find out whether the Century Nutrition clinic was still in operation, NCAHF made several calls to the number for Dr. Clark's clinic provided at http://www.drclark.net. Each call was unanswered after 19 rings; busy signals then followed.
Dr. Clark is the author of The Cure of All Cancers and The Cure for All Diseases. She claims her treatments work by ridding the body of parasites, toxins and environmental pollutants. Her treatments include herbs, amino acids, and a low voltage electrical device she calls the Zapper. Dr. Clark was arrested in San Diego in September 1999 on a fugitive warrant from Indiana, where she faced charges of practicing medicine without a license. A judge dismissed the case ruling that too much time had elapsed from before she was charged and prosecuted. [See NCRHI Newsletter, November/December 1999, p. 2 and March/April 2000, p. 4]. Information about Dr. Clark is available at http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/clark.html.
The Mexican health officials announced that it would plan to inspect other Tijuana clinics that provide "alternative" treatments to patients from almost exclusively north of the border, and determine whether they are operating legally.
The action against BioPulse International followed the initiation of an investigation by the United States Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the company engaged in unfair or deceptive advertising related to its treatments for cancer and other diseases. BioPulse International publicist John Liviakis, who reportedly held about 13 percent of the company's stock, promoted the company on his Web site as "enjoying high success rates in treating cancer and other diseases." His claim appeared to contradict a recent company filing to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in which BioPulse International admitted that the treatments were unproven and unapproved by the FDA.
The address for John Liviakis's Web site, which was published by Bloomberg News, does not appear to be active.
On February 16th BioPulse International announced that it plans to sell its clinic assets and change its name to California BioScience, although it could not guarantee that it would conclude the sale. Questionable treatments reportedly provided by BioPulse included inducing daily comas in patients over periods of six to 12 weeks; injecting patients with vaccines made from their own urine, and massive intravenous doses of vitamin C. According to a filing with the SEC, such treatments accounted for 90 percent of the company's revenues and profit. BioPulse International reported $3.1 million in revenues in fiscal year 2000.
"They set up a clinic that preys upon the desperate using unproven treatments with no evidence that they can make them work, spending far more on promotion than care," Arthur Caplan, director of the university of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics said to Bloomberg News. "Society has an obligation to protect cancer patients from companies like BioPulse."
The company was founded in 1998 by Loran Swenson, Jonathan Neville, and Dr. Robert E. Morrow an orthopedic surgeon. In a letter dated March 9th to BioPulse shareholders http://www.biopulse.com/thml/letter.html, the company's board of directors announced that it severed its relationship with the investor relations firm which had been representing the company, that Reid Jilek, PhD accepted the position of Chairman and CEO of BioPulse International, Inc., that Jonathan Neville remains on the Board of Directors, and that the clinic in Mexico continues to operate.
The Board wrote: "Once the Mexican doctors learned that a special permit was required for certain treatments, they initiated the application process in cooperation with the health department.
"Our company's plan has been and remains to collaborate with established clinics and not to own them. We hope to be able to expand the number of clinics with which we have relationships as we believe we can, in this way, both assist more patients and expand our company's operations."
[Sources: Bloomberg press reports on 1/17, 2/9, 2/13, 2/16; and Crabtree P. Dibble S. BioPulse to sell its cancer lab in Tijuana. The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 17, 2001.]