Consumer Health Digest #02-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 25, 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.


"CAM" survey finds lower usage. Researchers who analyzed data from the 1999 National Health Interview Survey have estimated that 28.9% of noninstitutionalized American adults used one or more "CAM therapy" during the previous year. The practices included spiritual healing or prayer (13.7%), herbal medicine (9.6%), chiropractic treatment (7.6%), "lifestyle diet" (6.9%), massage therapy (6.4%), relaxation (5.0%), homeopathy (3.1%), imagery (1.7%), energy therapy (1.1%), hypnosis (0.5%), biofeedback (0.5%), and others, such as qigong, yoga, chelation, and bee stings (0.3%). The overall total and many of the categories show significantly less use than found in the telephone surveys reported by David Eisenberg, M.D., in widely publicized papers in 1993 and 1998. The authors noted that NHIS used face-to-face interviews that included non-English speakers and people without telephones who tend to use fewer of the listed methods. It is also noteworthy that diet, massage, relaxation, hypnosis, and biofeedback include practices that are mainstream and should not have been included in the published numbers. The study also found that compared with nonusers, "CAM users" were more likely to use standard medical services. [Ni H. Utilization of complementary and alternative medicine by United States adults. Medical Care 40:353-358, 2002] The Eisenberg studies have been severely criticized. [Gorski TN. The Eisenberg data: Flawed and deceptive. Quackwatch, March 16, 2002]


New journal examines questionable mental health claims. Prometheus Books has begun publishing The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, an interdisciplinary journal intended to critique unscientific and invalidated claims. The first issue features a comprehensive article on appropriate and inappropriate treatment of autism. The journal's editor is Scott O. Lillienfeld, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Emory University. Many of the editorial board members are affiliated with Science & Pseudoscience Review in Mental Health, a Web site with similar aims. One year (2 issues) subscriptions are $60 for individuals in the United States and Canada, $70 for individuals overseas, and $100 for institutions. Two- and three-year subscriptions are also available. Orders can be placed by calling (800) 421-0351. Prometheus also publishes The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal that objectively analyzes the claims of "alternative medicine."


Banned pain-reliever (Dipyrone) available in U.S. Researchers at the University of Utah have reported that metamizole, a drug that can relieve fever and pain, is being used by many Latino families who attend the university's clinic. The drug, sometimes called "Mexican aspirin," can cause agranulocytosis, a disease in which the white blood count drops and subsequent infection can lead to death. Although the FDA banned it in 1979, the researchers believe that it is still available at small drugstores and corner markets in ethnic areas of the United States. It is also available without a prescription in Mexico, other Latin American countries, Africa, and parts of Asia. It is manufactured in at least 18 countries and sold under more than 200 brand names. [Bonkowsky JL and others. Metamizole use by Latino immigrants: A common and potentially harmful home remedy. Pediatrics 109(6)e98, 2002]


Health Canada warns against eight herbal products. On June 14th, Health Canada advised Canadians not to use eight herbal products. The first was Bejai Bowyantan, an imported Chinese medicine used to treat babies with flu, fever, stomach aches, diarrhea, night crying and inability to sleep. The product is labeled to contain 5% borneolum syntheticum. Borneol has a similar toxicity profile to camphor, a substance known to be extremely toxic, particularly in children. [Health Canada is warning Canadians not to use Bejai Bowyantan, a traditional Chinese medicine for infants. Health Canada advisory, June 14, 2002] On June 19th, the agency warned Canadians to avoid seven products marketed in the United States by BotanicLab because they contained undeclared prescription drugs that could cause serious adverse effects:

The agency advises consumers to use only drug products labeled with an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), which indicates that Health Canada has assessed the product for safety, effectiveness and quality, and has authorized its sale. [Health Canada is warning Canadians not to use seven herbal supplements. Health Canada advisory, June 14, 2002]


Study finds no link between vasectomy and prostate cancer. A case-control study of 923 new cases of prostate cancer among New Zealanders aged 40 to 74 years has found no association between prostate cancer and vasectomy, even after 25 years or more. [Cox B and others. Vasectomy and risk of prostate cancer. JAMA 87:3110-3115, 2002]


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This page was posted on June 25, 2002.