Consumer Health Digest #09-47

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 19, 2009


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.


Weil Web site gets warning letter. The FDA has ordered the operators of drweil.com ("the official Web site of Andrew Weil, M.D.") to stop making illegal claims that its "Immune Support Formula" could help prevent swine flu and colds. The violative statements included: "Dr. Weil's Immune Support Formula can help maintain a strong defense against the flu. It contains astragalus, a traditional herb that boosts immunity. Buy it now in one click, and start protecting your immune system against flu this season." The FDA's Fraudulent H1N1 Influenza Products List currently contains 143 items.


New mechanism established for reporting trouble with dietary supplements and herbs. The Therapeutic Research Faculty and the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database have launched Natural Medicines Watch to facilitate the reporting of side effects of dietary supplements, and herbal products. Reports are supplemented with information from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, submitted to appropriate regulatory agencies, and made available to researchers after identifying information is removed. Natural Medicines Watch, researchers and regulatory agencies expect to recognize specific safety issues and make appropriate communications to health professionals, consumers and manufacturers.


Metaanalysis finds no benefit from reflexology. Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D. has located and evaluated 18 randomized controlled clinical trials involving reflexology. [Ernst E. Is reflexology an effective intervention? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Medical Journal of Australia 191:263-266, 2009] He concluded that 12 failed to show effectiveness, five suggested positive results, and one result was unclear, most of the studies were small and poorly designed, and the two largest studies had negative results. Overall, Ernst concluded:

Reflexology is a pseudoscientific practice system of diagnosis and treatment based on the premise that each body part is "represented" on the hands and feet and that pressing on the hands and feet can have therapeutic effects throughout the body. Research will never validate it.


Group aims to protect against inappropriate chelation therapy. Say "NO to Chelation"! has formed "to support parents who are resisting pressure to submit their children to unwanted and experimental chelation treatments as a purported cure for autism." The group was launched to help the mother of two autistic children to stop the father from having them chelated at Thoughtful House, an autism clinic in Austin, Texas. that requires consent from both parents to do intravenous chelation. When the mother refused, the father sought a court order. At the first hearing, the judge ordered a continuance to arrange for the chelationist, Bryan Jepson, M.D., to testify about his recommended treatment. [Roser MA. Father takes ex-wife to court over son's autism treatment: Mother says intravenous treatment at Thoughtful House is unproven and too dangerous. Austin-American Statesman, Nov 14, 2009] There is no scientific evidence or rational reason to believe that autism is a toxic disease or that chelation therapy is beneficial. Doctors who offer it typically claim to treat heavy metal toxicity based on provoked urine tests, which do not yield accurate results. [Barrett S. How the "urine toxic metals" test is used to defraud patients. Quackwatch, April 29, 2009]


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This page was posted on November 20, 2009.