Consumer Health Digest #02-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 5, 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.


FDA criticizes "oxygen bars." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that people have nothing to gain by frequenting oxygen bars and subjecting themselves to unnecessary risk. Problems can occur if the equipment in unsanitary, the oxygen is administered near where people are smoking, or if the oxygen is bubbled through aromatic solution that can irritate the user's breathing passageways. [Bren L. Oxygen bars: Is a breath of fresh air worth it? FDA Consumer 36(6)9-11, 2002]


Medical Letter comments on drug expiration dates. The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics has concluded that the amount of potency retained by drugs past their expiration date varies from drug to drug and also depends on storage conditions. Many drugs stored under reasonable conditions retain 90% of their potency for at least five years after the expiration date on the label. Once the container is opened, this expiration date no longer applies. Newly manufactured drugs are usually given an expiration date 2-3 years after their manufacture. Prescriptions are usually labeled with a "beyond use" date one year from the date they are filled. [Drugs past their expiration date. The Medical Letter 44:93-4, 2002.] Because of legal risks, however, drug companies pharmacists, and physicians may not be willing to advise patients to use drugs after their "official" expiration dates even when such use is safe.


Chiropractor charged with fraud related to woman's death. Joanne M. Gallagher, D.C., of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, has been indicted for defrauding Medicaid. The indictment alleges that a female patient died in 1999 because she followed Gallagher's advice to stop taking anti-epileptic medication. The indictment states that Gallagher assured the patient that her seizures would go away after three days, once she got the medicines "out of her system." Instead, the patient underwent violent seizures and died. [Indictment. United States of America v. Joanne M. Gallagher. U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Criminal No. 02-253, Filed Oct 9, 2002] Gallagher's Web site claims that "correction" of the meninges [membranes that sheath the brain and spinal cord] allows structural balance of the spine and meninges for optimal function of the nerve system needed for optimal healing." According to a U.S. Attorney, during the six months before the patient's death, Gallagher met with the patient 40 times, during which she "adjusted her meninges" and urged the patient to stop her medication. No spinal manipulations took place, but Gallagher allegedly billed Medicaid for spinal manipulations for treating a cervical "subluxation" and then billed a second time for the same services after the patient died. The treatment of epilepsy by chiropractors is not permitted under Pennsylvania law or covered by Medicaid. The maximum penalty for health care fraud involving the death of a patient is life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.


Another Internet pharmacy indictment. Kwikmed, Cymedic Health Group, and six individuals in Arizona have been indicted on federal charges of mail fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The indictment alleges that Kwikmed and Cymedic used Internet sites to sell Viagra (enhanced sexual performance), Celebrex (arthritis pain), Xenical (weight loss), and Propecia (hair growth). The Web sites claimed that client medical claims were reviewed by physicians who wrote cyber-prescriptions. However, the indictment says there was no medical review in most transactions. Sales are said to have topped $28 million.


Spinal manipulation not proven effective for headaches. A systematic review of spinal manipulation for the treatment of headache disorders has concluded that the data available so far do not support claims that manipulation is an effective treatment for headaches. [Astin JA, Ernst E. The effectiveness of spinal manipulation for the treatment of headache disorders: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Cephalalgia 22:617-623, 2002]


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This page was posted on November 5, 2002.