Consumer Health Digest #02-16

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 16, 2002


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.


ConsumerLab.com says "breast-enhancers" are ineffective. ConsumerLab.com, which evaluates the quality of herbal and dietary supplement products, has concluded that "natural products" marketed for breast enhancement are not effective. Its findings appear in a review article in which scientific literature and product information were analyzed. The review found no published double-blind studies or sound theoretical basis to conclude that any of 20 commonly used ingredients are effective. The review stated, for example, that estrogenic herbs (including soy, red clover, fennel, and hops) should not increase breast size in premenopausal women and could theoretically decrease it (although most are probably too weak to have any effect). The full report is available to subscribers. Annual subscriptions cost $15.95.


New Mexico passes psychologist prescribing law. New Mexico has become the first state to authorize psychologists to prescribe psychiatric drugs. HB 170, enacted March 5, enables psychologists to acquire a two-year license to prescribe under physician supervision by completing 450 hours of course work, completing a 400-hour/100-patient practicum under physician supervision, and passing a certification examination. Then, if the supervisor approves and the psychologist's prescribing records pass an independent peer review, the psychologist can apply to prescribe independently. To maintain prescribing ability, the psychologist must carry malpractice insurance, complete 20 hours of continuing education annually, and collaborate with the patient's primary physician. The new law also enables prescribing psychologists to order relevant laboratory tests. The American Psychiatric Association has denounced the new law as economically motivated and hazardous to patients. [Harding RK. New Mexico psychologists prescribing law: Bad medicine for patients. American Psychiatric Association media advisory, March 6, 2002] Quackwatch has additional information on this topic.


"Naturopath" Laurence Perry sentenced to jail. Laurence Perry, an unlicensed naturopath, has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license and sentenced to 12-15 months in jail. Perry was accused of improperly regulating the insulin dosage of a diabetic child who died as a result in 1999. [Maxwell T. Naturopath found guilty in diabetic girl's death, practicing medicine without license. Citizen-Times, April 15, 2002] Perry's "credentials" included a mail-order "Doctor of Nutritional Medicine" degree from the John F. Kennedy College of Nutrimedical Arts & Sciences (a mail-order diploma mill); "board certification" from the American College of Naturopathy," (a bogus credential), and a "Doctor of Medicine" diploma from the British West Indies Medical College (a nonexistent school). North Carolina naturopaths who are graduates of four-year schools claim that the case illustrates a need to license naturopaths to protect consumers from others who call themselves naturopaths. However, naturopathy is so bizarre that there is no logical reason to believe that graduates of the "genuine" schools practice more rationally than the rest. Quackwatch has additional information on Perry's dubious credentials.


Homeopathic asthma treatment found ineffective. A placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind study has found no evidence that "homeopathic immunotherapy" was effective in asthmatics with proven allergy to house dust mites. About 200 participants were given three oral doses of either a 30C homeopathic dust mite product (30 dilutions of 1:100) a placebo made with the same method of dilution but without the dust-mite ingredient. [Lewith GT and others. Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: Double blind randomised controlled clinical trial. British Medical Journal, March 2, 2002]


St John's wort flunks another test. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial has found that an extract of Hypericum perforatum was no more effective than placebo against moderately severe depression. The multi-site trial involved 340 participants. [Hypericum Depression Trial Group. Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) in major depressive disorder. JAMA 287:2801-1814, 2002] The trial was funded jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Although several smaller European studies have suggested that St. John's wort is useful in treating mild to moderately severe depression, experts have concluded that more rigorous trials were needed before firm conclusions could be drawn. This is the second well-designed trial to have negative results.


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This page was posted on April 16, 2002.