Consumer Health Digest #02-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 28, 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.


New code of conduct for drug reps. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, which represents about 80 leading drug and biotechnology companies, has issued a professional code of conduct intended to limit what doctors receive from drug company representatives. The items still acceptable include drug samples; a free stethoscope; free meals (if modest and accompanied by educational or scientific exchange); and free medical books (if the cost is not substantial). Unacceptable items include meals that are expensive or not accompanied by appropriate educational activity; bookstore gift certificates; reimbursement for gasoline expenses; and tickets to theater or sporting events. The code's main thrust is that interactions with drug reps must focus on the product and that educational activities must be genuine. [Robeznieks A. Pharmacy group details what drug reps can give physicians. American Medical News 45(20:1-2, 2002] The rules are a reaction to concerns that drug companies have been using expensive perks to influence medical prescribing habits.


"Classic" MLM sales pitches debunked. John Milton Fogg, a prominent consultant, has blasted four statements that have been used for many years to recruit people into multilevel marketing:

Fogg's analysis is posted to MLM Watch.


Chiropractic stroke victim wins $700,000 jury verdict. A Kentucky jury has awarded $700,000 to Terry Smith, a 42-year-old former plumber's helper who had a stroke following a series of neck manipulations by a chiropractor. Smith testified that he has trouble walking, suffers from severe headaches, is unable to work, has great difficulty in swallowing, and must spend long periods of time feeding himself through a stomach tube. Expert testimony established that the stroke was caused by dissection and subsequent blockage of the vertebral arteries to the brain on both sides. The chiropractor's attorney argued that the stroke, which took place 19 days after the last chiropractic treatment session, could have been spontaneous and unrelated to the treatment. Plaintiff's expert, L. Creed Pettigrew, M.D., who heads the University of Kentucky's stroke treatment center, acknowledged that vertebral artery dissections can occur spontaneously. But he testified that the fact that both arteries were involved at the same time at essentially the same level in the neck almost certainly meant that the manipulations were responsible. Dr. Stephen Barrett believes that the chiropractic profession and medical stroke centers should create a reporting system so that the causes and incidence of the problem can be studied closely.


Neck manipulation by "bonesetter" causes stroke. A stroke has been reported in an otherwise healthy 32-year-old woman who, during a Native American "healing" ceremony, underwent vigorous manipulation in which her head was suddenly thrust upward and to the right while her left shoulder was held to the ground. Six days later, she experienced vertigo (dizziness), vomiting and left-sided ataxia (poor muscle control) that her doctors attributed to a vertebral artery dissection. [Quintana JG and others. Vertebral artery dissection and stroke following neck manipulation by Native American healer. Neurology 58:1434-1435, 2002'] "Bonesetting" is a centuries-old folk practice that includes spinal manipulation and reduction of dislocated bones.


Olympic skiers penalized for alleged "blood doping." Two Austrian skiers, their coach, and their chiropractor were sanctioned over the use of blood transfusion equipment at last winter's Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. The athletes were disqualified and the coach (who administered the transfusions) and the chiropractor (who prescribed them) were barred from participating in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympic Games. According to a report in Sports Illustrated magazine:

The article did not mention that blood irradiation has no proven therapeutic value and should be considered a quack treatment.


Many chiropractors sell dietary supplements. Of 398 chiropractors who responded to an online survey by Chiropractic Economics magazine, 68% said they sold nutritional products in their office. [Stulze T. Fifth annual salary & expense survey results: Are you getting your fair share? Chiropractic Economics 44:26-40, 2002] Although the participants were self-selected (not randomly selected), this figure fits with other survey reports. Supplement products sold through chiropractic offices usually cost much more than comparable products in retail outlets; and patients are usually charged at least twice what the chiropractor pays for them.


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This page was posted on May 28, 2002.