Consumer Health Digest #08-01
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 1, 2008
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. 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.
Seattle Times blasts device quackery. The Seattle Times is conducting a major investigation of device quackery and dubious credentials that so far has generated more than a dozen articles by Michael J. Berens and Christine Willmsen. Most of the articles can be accessed through a page titled Miracle machines: The 21st century snake oil. Its findings have included:
- One bogus device, the EPFX, has had more than 10,000 deployed in the United States even though the FDA has banned its importation. Many of its operators dupe the public by posing as highly trained health-care professionals through the use of deceptive credentials and nonaccredited degrees. [How one man's invention is part of a growing worldwide scam that snares the desperately ill, Nov 19, 2007]
- Former U.S. Representative Berkeley Bedell persuaded Senator Tom Harkin to shepherd bills that earmarked about $7 million to the Samueli Institute for Information Biology, of which $200,000 was paid to Bedell's National Foundation of Alternative Medicine. Bedell suggested that the institute study the PAP-IMI, a quack device, until an FDA investigation linked injuries and death to the device. [PAP-IMI fan sought military study, Nov 19, 2007] The institute's president and chief executive officer is Wayne Jonas, M.D., former head of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine (precursor of today's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
- At least 104 nonaccredited schools dole out "alternative-medicine" degrees or certifications that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Most operate only through the Internet or by mail order. [Teen's death hastened by practitioner who has bogus diplomas, Nov 14, 2007]
- Cycling champion Lance Armstrong has been falsely claimed to have benefited from EPFX treatment. [Lance Armstrong's chiropractor paid to endorse machine, Nov 19, 2007]
U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) has asked for a Congressional investigation of bogus institutional review boards (IRBs) that try to protect "alternative practitioners" from regulatory action by pretending they are doing legitimate research.
Court upholds licensing authorities in quack device case. The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that use of a bogus electrodiagnostic device had created an "unreasonable risk of harm." In 2004, the Washington Department of Health Medical Quality Assurance Commission concluded that Geoffrey S. Ames, M.D., who practices in Richland, Washington, had committed unprofessional conduct by using a LISTEN device to (incorrectly) diagnose a patient as having an "egg allergy." Such devices which provide readings based on the patient's skin resistance to a tiny electric current, are not FDA-approved for diagnosis and have no diagnostic value. The Commission ordered a 5-year license suspension that would be stayed provided that Ames (a) stops using the device, (b) undergoes quarterly practice reviews, and (c) pays a $5,000 fine. Ames appealed, but the courts have upheld the ruling.
New anti-quackery blog launched. Science-Based Medicine will explore issues and controversies in the relationship between science and health care. Its mission is to scientifically examine medical and health topics of interest to the public. This includes reviewing newly published studies, examining dubious products and claims, providing much-needed scientific balance to the often credulous health reporting, and exploring issues related to the regulation of scientific quality in medicine. The five primary authors will be Kimball Atwood, MD; David Gorski, MD, PhD; Harriet Hall, MD; Steven Novella, MD; and Wallace Sampson, MD.
Skeptical chiropractic discussion forum very active. Chirotalk: The Skeptical Chiropractic Discussion Forum, with more than 146,000 visitors during 2006 and 2007, has become one of the Internet's most active chiropractic discussion sites. Several medical doctors, physical therapists and attorneys contribute regularly, and several prominent chiropractors, including a chiropractic college president, have participated. The three most popular threads have been fundamental chiropractic beliefs, questionable chiropractic practices, and chiropractic's future (or lack of one). Chirotalk was founded by founded by Allen Botnick, whose article about why he quit chiropractic should be required reading for anyone contemplating a chiropractic career.
This page was posted on January 3, 2008..