Consumer Health Digest #10-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 1, 2010


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.


Dr. Barrett sued. Doctor's Data, a lab that performs tests for many chelation therapists, has sued Dr. Stephen Barrett. [Barrett S. Why Doctor's Data is trying to muzzle me. Quackwatch, July, 2010]. The suit is primarily concerned about Barrett's article, "How the urine toxic metals test is used to defraud patients," which describes how chelationists mislead patients into believing that they need treatment for heavy metal toxicity. The heart of the deception is "provoked" testing, in which the practitioner administers a chelating agent before the urine specimen is obtained. This artificially raises the levels of lead, mercury, and/or other heavy metals in the urine. The test report states that its "reference values" are for non-provoked specimens. However, if a provoked test level exceeds the reference values—which it usually does—it is reported as "elevated," even though it should not be considered significant. Dr. Barrett's article also tabulates disciplinary actions, court decisions, and lawsuits related to provoked testing. Doctor's Data is asking for damages exceeding $10 million and a sweeping injunction against further criticism. Although it is unlikely to prevail, defending against the lawsuit could be costly. Contributions to Barrett's defense can be made through the Quackwatch donations page.


Anti-vax lawsuit dismissed. A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD, Inc) lawsuit intended to force the FDA to suspend approval of all products that contain thimerosal. Thimerosal, a preservative that contains trivial amounts of mercury, has been falsely accused of causing autism and other neurological disorders. In 2008, the FDA dismissed a citizen petition filed by the same group after concluding that its contentions were legally and scientifically unsupportable by either law or science and that the currently marketed drug products that contain mercury preservatives are safe. The lawsuit claimed that (a) the FDA's denial injured CoMeD members by denying them the opportunity to be safely vaccinated, and (b) CoMeD members who received thimerosal-containing vaccines suffered harms that included autism, miscarriages, and other injuries. The judge concluded that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. CoMeD is a nonprofit group operated by Mark Geier, M.D. and his son David. Its mission is "to reduce the level of mercury in all drugs, and end the knowing addition of mercury, in any form, to vaccines and other drugs."


Chelationist using patients to influence Amazon book rank. Rashid A. Buttar, D.O. who advises nearly everyone who consults him to undergo "detoxification," has asked patients and other subscribers to his e-mail lists to plug his new book, The 9 Steps to Keep the Doctor Away: Simple Actions to Shift Your Body and Mind to Optimum Health. Several weeks ago, he offered a free copy if they pledged to read it and post a review on Amazon.com or elsewhere. Those who took the pledge could download an electronic copy. After the book was published, "Buttar and Staff" shipped a hard copy as an Amazon "gift order" to all who signed up. At 2 PM (East Coast time) on July 4th, Amazon.com ranked the book #58 in the "Health, Mind & Body" category and #246 overall, and 22 out of 23 reviews were "5-star" (the highest rating). In contrast, Barnes and Noble's Web site ranked the book #69,395 and had no reviews. On the same day, the book's Web site said that 7,603 copies had been sold. The book classifies heavy metals as "The 1st Toxicity" and describes how Buttar's son Abie stopped speaking when he was three years old. The book states that after concluding that mercury (from vaccinations) was the most likely cause, Buttar "tested Abie four times before his challenge test came back positive for mercury" and restored the boy's ability to speak by treating him for five months with "an innovative detoxification method."


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