Consumer Health Digest #06-48
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 28, 2006
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.
Claims for "spinal decompression" tables attacked. The Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners is questioning advertising claims that NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) found that treatment with a spinal decompression table is highly effective against back pain. [Chiropractic board questions "NASA medical breakthrough" advertising claims. Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners press release, Nov 17, 2006] About 1,000 spinal decompression machines are in use in the United States. They provide an expensive high-tech form of mechanical traction that can relieve some cases of back pain but are widely promoted with unsubstantiated claims that they can correct degenerated and herniated discs without surgery. However, there are good reasons to believe that manual treatment can usually accomplish the same thing more quickly, safely, and less expensively. [Barrett S. Be wary of VAX-D therapy. Chirobase, Nov 30, 2006] Medicare and most private insurers consider spinal decompression treatment experimental and either do not cover it or consider it a simple form of traction for which they pay only a fraction of the usual fee. In December 2005, the Anesthesia & Pain Coder's Pink Sheet published a devastating report about the marketing of four such devices (Vax-D, Accu-Spina, DRS, and DRX-9000). [Vogenitz W. Miscoding advice causes financial troubles, liabilities for unsuspecting anesthesia, pain offices. Anesthesia & Pain Coder's Pink Sheet, Dec 2005] The report noted that miscoding of claims is common and that many of the payments should not have been made.
Century Wellness Center owner indicted. James W. Forsythe, M.D., has been charged with two counts of illegally distributing Bio-Tropin, an unapproved and potentially dangerous form of human growth hormone (HGH). The investigating officer's declaration states:
- The FDA received information Forsythe had told a patient that the drug would help build muscles and act as an anti-aging medicine.
- When the investigator visited the clinic as a patient, Forsythe advised him that HGH would restore sleep quality, improve weight control, enhance sex drive, improve immune function, and provide other youth-related benefits.
- In 1995, Forsythe entered an agreement with the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners (BME) under which he pleaded guilty to one count of making unreasonable charges for tests and services. He paid a $1,000 fine and was required to pay back $44,000.
- During the past 12 years, the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners has investigated 18 complaints about excessive billing and bad medical practices. However, when it has developed evidence of wrongdoing, Forsythe, who is also licensed as a homeopath, has claimed that he was acting as a homeopath and was therefore exempt from BME authority.
Update: The criminal case was tried in the Fall of 2007. The judge dismissed one of the counts, and the jury acquitted Forsythe of the other count.
FTC unveils massive document archive. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is posting a complete archive of its administrative actions from the past 37 years, including documents previously available to the general public only in book form. These volumes—more than 70,000 pages—contain virtually all administrative documents issued by the Commission, including opinions, final orders, complaints, and consent orders that result from negotiated consent agreements, as well as all initial decisions issued by Administrative Law Judges in administrative trial proceedings. [Federal Trade Commission Decisions, Volumes 75-140 (January 1969 - December 2005)] About 90% of the documents are now posted. The site's search engine can limit its results the archive.
This page was revised on February 27, 2008.