Consumer Health Digest #08-49

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 2, 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.


Studies support generic drug use for cardiovascular problems. A systematic review has concluded that brand-name drugs do not appear superior to generic drugs for treating cardiovascular disease. The reviewers identified 38 randomized controlled trials involving a total of nine types of cardiovascular drugs and found that 35 showed clinical equivalence. Despite this, 23 out of 43 (53%) relevant editorials advised against generic substitution. [Kesselheim AS and others. Brand-name drugs do not appear superior to generic drugs for treating cardiovascular disease; A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 300:2514-2526, 2008] This topic is highly significant because some brand-name cardiovascular drugs are much more expensive than their generic counterparts.


Heimlich-affiliated doctor loses election. Victoria Wulsin, M.D., has lost her second attempt at election to the United States Congress. One of the campaign issues was related to unethical human experiments in which malaria infection was used to treat HIV infection. These experiments which were conducted in Africa, were either conceived, coordinated, devised, supervised, funded, or otherwise managed by Henry Heimlich, M.D, (popularizer of the "Heimlich Maneuver" for treating choking) and/or the Heimlich Institute in Cincinnati. In 2004, Wulsin was hired to review Heimlich's work on "malariotherapy" and write a business plan for promoting it. Wulsin concluded that "the preponderance of evidence indicates that neither malaria nor immunotherapy will cure HIV/AIDS" and that the Heimlich Institute had been too secretive about its work. During the election campaign, critics charged that Wulsin should have reporting wrongdoing to the proper authorities. [Baratz RS. Victoria Wulsin linked to unethical "malariotherapy" experiments. Quackwatch, Nov 29, 2008] Wulsin lost the election by a vote of 45% to 37%.


FDA urged to stop sale of homeopathic flu product. Dr. Stephen Barrett has asked the FDA to stop the sale and initiate a Class I recall of "Influenzinium," which Washington Homeopathic Products recommends taking throughout the flu season. The company's Web site states that the product is made by repeatedly diluting and shaking a flu shot dose until it reaches a homeopathic concentration of "200C." (At this "concentration," no molecules of the original vaccine remain.) Barrett's complaint to the FDA expressed concern that widespread use of such a product instead of real flu protection can result in unnecessary death.


Renegade Canadian physician dies in prison. Ravi Devgan, M.D., who was serving a three-year prison sentence, has died. In 1993, Devgan was reprimanded for professional misconduct and fined $5,000. In 1996, he faced the criminal courts over the same matter and was convicted of defrauding the patient. In 2003, his medical license was revoked. In 2007, he was sent to prison for defrauding a family out of $30,000 for worthless cerebral palsy treatments.


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