Consumer Health Digest #01-37

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 10, 2001


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.


Senate hearing blasts anti-aging quackery. On September 10, The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled "Swindlers, Hucksters and Snake Oil Salesmen: The Hype and Hope of Marketing Anti-Aging Products to Seniors." The hearing focused on A. Glenn Braswell, whose fraudulent mail-order operations have spanned more than 25 years. Braswell testified briefly in response to a subpoena but refused to answer any questions. NCAHF executive director Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., urged the Committee to initiate several things:

The written testimony of the hearing has been posted to Quackwatch. A RealPlayer recording of the entire hearing is archived.


Maine passes anti-amalgam bill. Beginning July 1, 2002, dentists in Maine who use mercury amalgam in any dental procedure must display a poster and provide each patient with a brochure adopted by the Maine Department of Human Services that compares the potential advantages and disadvantages to oral health, overall health, and the environment of using amalgam or alternative materials. Senate President Michael Michaud spearheaded passage of the law (LD #1409: An Act to Address the Health Effects of Mercury Fillings). An amendment to ban amalgam use in children eight and under and in pregnant women did not pass. Such laws are sought by anti-amalgam dentists who falsely claim that the mercury in fillings poses a health hazard.


Medical journals strengthen ethical guidelines. Thirteen prominent medical journal editors have announced that they will not review or publish articles based on studies conducted under conditions that allow the sponsor of a study to have sole control of the data or two withhold publication. The policy is intended to prevent research sponsors from keeping unfavorable findings secret. The new policy is part of a revision of "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals," which will be published later. [Davidoff F and others. Sponsorship, authorship, and accountability. New England Journal of Medicine 345:825-827, 2001]


Tobacco ads still target young people. In 1998, the attorneys general of 46 states reached a Master Settlement Agreement that prohibits the four largest tobacco companies in the United States from engaging in advertising that targets people younger than 18 years of age. However, a study has found no significant change in advertising expenditures and youth exposure between 1995 and 2000. [King C III, Siegel M. The Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry and cigarette advertising in magazines. New England Journal of Medicine 345:504-511, 2001]


Doctor discontent is rising. A California Medical Association survey has found that 43% of the respondents say they are so frustrated by managed care that they will quit, retire early, or leave the state. [Physicians Financial News, Sept 15, 2001] Similar feelings have been noted in other states, particularly those with rapidly rising malpractice insurance premiums. If these trends continue, many areas of the United States will lack convenient access to medical care.


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