Consumer Health Digest #02-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 23, 2002


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.


Heart Association updates preventive guidelines. The American Heart Association has revised its 1997 guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease and stroke. [AHA guidelines for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke: 2002 update. Circulation 106:388-391, 2002] Its new consensus statement covers risk factor screening, global risk assessment, and risk-modifying interventions. Risk factor screening includes having blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and pulse recorded at least every two years and cholesterol profile and glucose (blood sugar) testing at least every five years beginning at age 20. Global risk assessment combines information from all existing risk factors to determine a person's percentage risk for developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years. Multiple areas of slight risk can be more important than one area of very high risk. This estimation is recommended every five years for people age 40 or older or for anyone with two or more risk factors. The goals and interventions include:

Details for implementing these strategies are posted on the AHA Web site.


New OTC drug labels required. As of May 15, most over-the-counter drug products sold in the United States must have a standardized label that uses plain language and an easy-to-read format similar to that of "Nutrition Facts" food labels. [The new over-the-counter medicine label: Take a look, FDA Web site, July ]


Psychiatric group blasts "rebirthing therapy." The American Psychiatric Association has issued a position statement opposing the use of coercive holding techniques for treating children suffering from reactive attachment disorder (RAD), an uncommon condition characterized by inability to form emotional attachments. The statement notes that some children with RAD appear detached, unresponsive, inhibited, or reluctant to engage in age-appropriate social interactions; whereas other children with RAD may be overly social and familiar with strangers. These children may have had severe disruptions in their early relationships, suffered abuse, been seriously neglected, and/or had traumatic losses or multiple changes in their primary caregiver. One type of coercion therapy (sometimes referred to as "rebirthing") involves wrapping the child tightly in a blanket or other material for extended periods in an effort to simulate "rebirth" and initiate a secure attachment between parent and child. The APA position statement notes that no scientific evidence supports the use of "rebirthing" techniques and that a child has been suffocated during a treatment session. [Reactive attachment disorder: Position statement. APA Document Reference No. 200205, approved by the Board of Trustees, June 2002] The child to which the statement referred was Candice Newmaker, who died in 2000.


Congress asked to promote rebirthing ban. On July 8, U.S. Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC) introduced the Candace Newmaker Resolution of 2002 (House Conjoint Resolution 435) "expressing the sense of the Congress that the therapeutic technique known as rebirthing is a dangerous and harmful practice and should be prohibited." Noting that Candice Newmaker and four other children have died from various forms of "attachment therapy," the proposed resolution encourages each state to enact a law prohibiting the "rebirthing" technique.


FDA concerned about "dietary supplements" for pets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that many dietary supplements and foods for pets are being marketed with illegal health claims. The agency believes that the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) does not apply to animals and that many of the products being sold in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Although foods for animals do not require approval before marketing, they are not permitted to contain unapproved food additives or other substances that are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Herbal ingredients, for example, may be legally included in "dietary supplement" pills for humans but cannot be legally placed in animal foods intended to prevent or treat diseases. [Grassie L. Dietary supplements and animals. FDA Consumer 36(4):36, 2002.


Physician told to stop marketing syrup for terminal illnesses. The FDA has warned Saiyid Rasheeq Wahid, M.D., of Baton Rouge, Louisiana to stop advertising that "Dr. Wahid's Herbal Remedy (an alternative medicine) is an edible syrup helping patients who have terminal illnesses such as AIDS, Cancer and Hepatitis C or other health problems." The warning letter says that patients were required to sign a document which stated that, "This offer is for patients that are diagnosed with a terminal illness only. I have ____ illness and have tried everything else and now taking this remedy. . . . I also feel that there is no other treatment that will help me." [FDA warning letter No. 2002-NOL-34, June 27, 2002]


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This page was posted on July 23, 2002.