Consumer Health Digest #03-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 11, 2003


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.


Health Canada steps up anti-smoking campaign. The Canadian Government's 5-year, $500-million anti-tobacco campaign, launched in April 2001, is the largest in the country's history and includes mass-media ads, as well as protection, prevention, cessation and harm-reduction initiatives. [Minister McLellan announces new cessation campaign to help Canadians quit smoking. Health Canada news release, Jan 22, 2003] Details of the campaign are posted on the agency's GoSmokeFree.ca Web site. The television ads are forcefully worded.


Journal article highlights ephedra hazard. Researchers who reviewed poison control center data and industry sales figures have concluded that the risks associated with ephedra are greater than those of other widely used herbs and that its use should be restricted. Their analysis concluded that in 2001, ephedra-containing products accounted for 64% of the reported adverse reactions to herbs in the United States, although these products represented only 0.82% of herbal product sales. [Bent S and others. The relative safety of ephedra compared with other herbal products. Annals of Internal Medicine 2003;138 (advance release), 2003] Ephedra (ma huang) is widely promoted for weight loss and/or to increase energy. FDA efforts to curb its use have been stymied by the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which greatly weakened the agency's ability to regulate products marketed as "dietary supplements."


Australian agency curbs Internet scammer. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has obtained a consent agreement under which Victoria-based Michael Desveaux will will provide refunds to consumers who bought products via his Web site, Transformation 2012, based on false or misleading representations. Products sold include O2xyrich Liquid Oxygen, Colloidal Copper, Colloidal Gold, SleepAweigh, Noni Juice, White Powder Gold and Etherium Gold, Olive Leaf Extract, Stevia, Peruvian Maca, Unique Water, Biosun Hopi Candle, and Colloidal Silver makers. Desveaux had claimed that such products could "assist in treating and/or curing" such diseases and infections as AIDS, cancer, herpes, hepatitis, Epstein Barr, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, discoid lupus, alcoholism and drug additions, bronchial asthma, dermatitis, and immune diseases. [Consumer refunds for claimed health cures sold over Internet. ACCC news release, Feb 10, 2003] Although the disease-related claims have been removed, the relevant pages on Desveaux's Web site now state: "As much as Transformation 2012 believes in the quality of its products, its effectiveness and benefits, it is most unfortunate that due to an instigated proceeding by the ACCC . . . , no claims can be made . . . . In these so-called modern times, it is a shame that we have got to the stage where we cannot provide a product's effectiveness and benefits to a person when it comes to natural nutritional medicine. For thousands and thousands of years it has been proven in many cultures around the planet, that natural medicine is both safe and effective for human consumption, and suddenly in this day and age of artificial medicine, we are being led to be guided as otherwise." The false representations can be viewed at the Internet Archive site.


Life University accreditation temporarily restored. A federal court judge has restored Life University's accreditation until the school's lawsuit against the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) is resolved. The reinstatement is effective back to June 2002, when CCE revoked the standing of Life's chiropractic program. Since that time, the program's enrollment has dropped from 2,800 to 500 and more than 300 students have filed lawsuits alleging that the school lost its accreditation because of negligence. [McDonald M. Chiropractic school given new life. Atlanta Journal- Constitution, Feb 11, 2003] Without accreditation, Life graduates are not eligible for licensure in most states. CCE's decision cited serious problems with diagnostic instruction and faculty oversight of students in the university's clinics.


Occult/supernatural encyclopedia now online. The James Randi Educational Foundation has posted An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, which contains 671 entries. The printed version, published in 1995, is out- of-print, but used copies are available through the Internet.


NCAHF launches "applied kinesiology" task force. The National Council Against Health Fraud is organizing a task force on applied kinesiology (AK), a pseudoscientific system in which muscle-testing is claimed to diagnose allergies and other problems throughout the body. The group will draft a policy statement and work to discourage use of the term "applied kinesiology" to describe programs in science-based biomechanics. Volunteers for this project can contact Paul Lee, PT.


"Alternative" treatments associated with shorter cancer survival. An 8-year study of 515 cancer patients has found a higher death rate (79%) among "alternative medicine" users than among nonusers (65%), which suggests thatAM use did not prolong survival and may actually "predict a shorter survival." [Risberg T. Does use of alternative medicine predict survival from cancer? European Journal of Cancer 39:372-377, 2003]


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This page was posted on February 11, 2003.