Consumer Health Digest #17-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 11, 2017


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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.


American Cancer Society journal promotes quackery. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has published the Society for Integrative Oncology's Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment in the May/June 2017 issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The monograph, whose co-authors include three naturopaths and an acupuncturist, states that its "recommendations" should not be regarded as the standard of care but are warranted as "viable but not singular options for the management of a specific symptom or side effect." (In other words, they have no effect on the course of cancer but might help some patients feel better.) The "therapies" include acetyl-l-carnitine; acupuncture; acupressure; aloe vera; ginger; ginseng; glutamine; guarana; healing touch; hyaluronic acid cream; hypnosis; laser therapy; manual lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging; massage; meditation; mistletoe; music therapy; reflexology; relaxation techniques; qigong; stress management; soy; and yoga. The discussions of these entities are not sufficiently critical. Most consist mainly of proponent claims, fail to consider implausibility, and pay little or no attention to negative studies.

In 2014, in response to an earlier edition of the guidelines, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., noted:


FTC criticized for tolerating false chiropractic claims. Dr. Stephen Barrett is puzzled that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has never publicly attacked any of the false or misleading claims that are common in chiropractic advertising. [Barrett S. Why doesn't the FTC attack false chiropractic claims? Chirobase, June 1, 2017] The common claims include:


Chiropractic practice-builder no longer licensed. In 2014, the Utah Chiropractic Physician Licensing Board suspended the license of John O. Meadors, D.C. for a minimum of six months. The board's decision was based on findings that he had financially abused two patients and failed to cooperate with board investigations. [Barrett S. Chiropractic entrepreneur disciplined. Chirobase, June 9, 2017] The board's order said that before resuming practice, he would have to (a) establish clear pricing, refund procedures, and record-keeping procedures, (b) agree to submit future advertisements to the board for advance approval, and (c) secure a peer supervisor to oversee all aspects of his professional practice. In addition, if the board lifted the suspension, Meadors would be required to serve on probation for five years during which he would be required to take an approved course in ethics and comply with monitoring procedures. The Licensing Division's database now indicates that his license had expired last year while the suspension was still in effect. A YouTube video claims that at one time he had the biggest practice in the world and that in 2009 he began marketing a pain-relief program to other chiropractors.


Correction. The May 28 issue of this newsletter reported on a study that found that young children could be taught how to detect "bullshit health claims." [Nsangi A and others. Effects of the Informed Health Choices primary school intervention on the ability of children in Uganda to assess the reliability of claims about treatment effects: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. The Lancet, May 19, 2017] The children ranged in age from 10 to 12 and were not 10th graders as reported.


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This page was posted on June 11, 2017.