Consumer Health Digest #13-35

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 19, 2013


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.


Long-acting contraceptives found to be most effective. The Contraceptive CHOICE Project, a research and educational initiative at Washington University in St. Louis, has reported that long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods are more effective and better accepted by women who received counseling on contraceptive choices. The project was founded in 2007 to remove financial barriers, promote the most effective methods of birth control, and reduce unintended pregnancy in the St. Louis area. Its recent video, "Pathway to Choice," states the following:


Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps flunk arthritis test. A well designed study has found that wearing a magnetic wrist strap or copper bracelet had no practical value for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The study involved 70 patients who were randomly assigned in various sequences to wear a standard (1502 to 2365 gauss) magnetic wrist strap and three control devices: a demagnetised (<20 gauss) wrist strap, an attenuated (250 to 350 gauss) magnetic wrist strap, and a copper bracelet. No differences among the groups were found for pain, inflammation, disease activity, disability, or medication requirement patterns. [Richmond SJ and others. Copper bracelets and magnetic wrist straps for rheumatoid arthritis: Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects: A randomized double-blind placebo controlled crossover trial. PLOS ONE 8(9), 2013]


Health Canada orders warning label on nosodes. Health Canada, which licenses products, will require the product packaging for nosodes to feature the warning "This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination." Nosodes are oral homeopathic preparations made from bodily tissues and fluids (including feces, blood, pus, discharges, and saliva) taken from patients suffering from a disease (including measles, anthrax, tuberculosis). Once the starting material is obtained, it is sterilized and serially diluted, often to the point where no active ingredient remains. Nosodes are commonly referred to as "homeopathic vaccines." Many homeopaths and naturopaths offer them as an alternative to vaccination, but there is no evidence they can protect against disease. The agency's action came in response to the campaign by Bad Science Watch to persuade it to de-license homeopathic products. Although the warning reflects Health Canada's recognition that a problem exists, its failure to ban the products is consistent with the Canadian government's "do-almost-nothing" policy toward useless products.


Another "specialist" told to stop inappropriate Lyme disease treatment. Jeffrey Piccirillo, D.O., who has been practicing in Iowa and Illinois, has been disciplined by the licensing boards in both states. In June 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine fined him $10,000, placed him on indefinite probation, and prohibited him from treating Lyme disease. Iowa's action was based on charges that he had (a) diagnosed patients with Lyme disease despite the fact that they did not meet standard diagnostic criteria, (b) treated these patients with long-term intravenous antibiotics even though such treatment is not recognized as medically appropriate, and (c) engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female patient. Two months later, in response to the Iowa action, the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation suspended his license.

Piccirillo practiced orthopedic surgery for more than 10 years, but in 2009, the Iowa board concluded that he had failed to demonstrate necessary surgical skills and ordered him to stop. The South Bend Tribune has reported that he blamed his surgical difficulty on severe hand tremors that he attributed to chronic Lyme disease and that in 2008, he became a "Lyme specialist." Casewatch has additional information links to the disciplinary documents.


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