Consumer Health Digest #14-02
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 19, 2014
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.
FDA facilitates reporting of serious dietary supplement reactions. The FDA is now accepting dietary supplement adverse event reports through the Department of Health and Human Services' Safety Reporting Portal. The 2006 Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 109-462), requires manufacturers, packers, and distributors identified on product labels to report serious adverse events that occur within the United States, The FDA is particularly interested in having physicians file reports when their patients experience an adverse event associated with supplements. Consumers are also welcome to file. The FDA estimates that more than 85,000 products classified as dietary supplements are now marketed.
Conspiracy theories placed in perspective. Skeptical Inquirer has published an article about trends in unscientific beliefs that are proliferated via cable television and the Internet. Regarding "conspiracy theories," the author notes:
Conspiracy thinking has always been around but not in the endemic way in which it pollutes almost every aspect of public discourse. Conspiracies about what? Just about everything. Distrust in government and all public institutions is at high levels, not without some reason, but conspiratorial thinking is not just due to that. It is a way of not thinking. It is a pernicious way of shaping a preconceived personal worldview so that it is immune from criticism. Absence of evidence for the theory is perceived as evidence of the conspiracy (to withhold the evidence). That is not critical thinking. That is the opposite of critical thinking.
[Frazier K. Why we do this: Revisiting the higher values of skeptical inquiry. Skeptical Inquirer 37(6):11-13, 2013]
License of "anti-aging" doctor suspended. The Oregon Medical Board has ordered an emergency suspension of the license of Kenneth J. Welker, who operates Oregon Optimal Health in Eugene, Oregon. The suspension order indicates that the board was concerned about his management of 13 patients. The order stated:
- Welker showed "a pattern of treating patients with forms of treatment that are not medically indicated and unnecessarily exposed his patients to the risk of harm." The inappropriate treatments included chelation therapy, hydrogen peroxide infusions, and stem cell injections.
- In many of the cases, Welker failed to adequately investigate serious symptoms.
- Welker failed to coordinate his care with that of the patients' primary doctors.
- In some instances he advised patients to stop taking vitally important medications.
- In one case, Welker made "38 distinct diagnoses" and included 29 dietary supplements among his treatment recommendations.
- In several cases he prescribed testosterone without adequate safeguards.
Welker originally trained as a surgeon and practiced bariatric surgery for several years. Then, according to his Web site, he began to seek "deeper answers to better health and sustainable weight loss" and became enamored with the idea of "uncovering the biochemical basis of dysfunction and treating the problem, not the symptom." In 2007, he pursued training in "functional medicine," and "anti-aging/regenerative medicine" and changed the nature of his practice. Welker's clinic Web site offers a variety of nonstandard health care approaches. Before the suspension, the clinic staff consisted of him and his wife, who is a nurse practitioner. After the suspension, his name was removed but the clinic offerings appear to be the same.
New book attacks pseudoscience. Bryan Farha, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral studies in education at Oklahoma City University, has compiled a multi-author anthology that explores paranormal, extraordinary, and fringe-science claims and how people are tricked into believing them. The topics include astrology; cold reading; traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis; psychic ability; prayer and healing; after-death communication; and inappropriate psychotherapy. The 190-page book, Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims, is available through Amazon Books.
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