Consumer Health Digest #16-34

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 11, 2016


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.


Amazon.com criticized for selling quack products. Reports from The Sun (a British newspaper) have accused Amazon.com of "endangering the sick and vulnerable and illegally peddling bogus snake-oil 'cures' for cancer." [Quinton M, Stoneman J. 'DANGEROUS AND MISLEADING' How web giant Amazon 'endangers' the sick and vulnerable by 'peddling bogus miracle cancer cures.' The Sun, Sept 6, 20-16] The products included electronic "zappers" claimed to treat HIV, instructions on administering bleach enemas for autism, and tablets made from animal glands aimed at people with thyroid disorders. One product, Dr Reckeweg R17 Tumour Drops, which was claimed to treat "all tumours, malignant or benign" including breast and stomach cancer, was removed from Amazon's site after the article was published. But thousands of dubious products remain available through Amazon.


UK veterinarians call for homeopathy ban. Danny Chambers, a veterinarian who teaches at the University of Edinburgh, has initiated an open letter asking the Royal College of Veterinarians to ban the treatment of animals with homeopathy. A portion of the letter states:

Few things more heartbreaking than having to pick up the pieces after an animal has received inadequate care. Unfortunately, too many times in my career I've been presented with an animal whose perfectly treatable condition has been left to deteriorate, because their owners and vets were convinced that homeopathic remedies would do the trick. At best, it leads to unnecessary suffering and a reduced likelihood of a full recovery. At worst, as with the case of a horse I treated for severe laminitis, there is no option left but euthanasia.

. . . There is no real way for an animal's owner to judge whether the advice they receive from a qualified vet is based on sound research or, in the case of homeopathy, personal belief that flies in the face of evidence. The public rightly place their trust in veterinary surgeons, reasoning that our medical knowledge is the result of years of study and training at formally accredited institutions, and based on sound research.

For the veterinary profession to retain the trust of the general public, we have to ensure that the treatments that we offer are, to the best of our ability, based in evidence. As the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK, it is the duty of the RCVS to monitor the ethical and clinical standards of our profession—clearly, the promotion of demonstrably ineffective treatments is not compatible with these standards.

More than 1,000 veterinarians have signed onto the letter. [Chambers D. Why we are calling for a ban on vets offering homeopathic remedies. The Guardian, July 8, 2016]


Vaccine critic facing disciplinary action. The Medical Board of California has accused Robert W. Sears, M.D., of unprofessional conduct related to his management of a 2-year-old patient. The board's Accusation states that he violated the standard care by:

Sears is a leading advocate of spacing out vaccine administration so fewer vaccines are given at once. [Snyder J. Cashing in on fear: The danger of Dr. Sears. Science-Based Medicine Blog, July 30, 2009] There is no scientific support for such a schedule. [Crislip M, Barrett S. Do children get too many immunizations. The answer is no. Quackwatch, Sept 11, 2016] Sears's letter appears to have embellished what the mother told him about the boy's previous experiences with vaccines.


CRN hypes supplement industry data. The Council on Responsible Nutrition, which represents large companies that manufacture and distribute dietary supplements, has funded a report on the economic impact of the industry. The report states that the industry contributes $121.6 billion to the U.S. economy, creates 754,645 jobs nationwide, pays $38.4 billion in wages, and contributes nearly $15 billion in federal and state business taxes, not including taxes collected on product sales. [John Dunham & Associates. 2016 Economic impact of the dietary supplement industry. June 2016] In a press release announcing the report, CRN states: "Here's what we know: more than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements for the health benefits they provide; supplements offer tremendous potential for societal health care cost savings; and the industry makes vital contributions to the economy at large. What's good for your health is also very good for America's wallet." The report (of course) does not attempt to determine how much money Americans waste on useless products, how many are harmed by adverse effects or delay in seeking necessary medical care, or the economic impact of failed investments in multilevel marketing distributorships. CRN's hype parallels that of the tobacco industry, which used economic analysis to argue that tobacco control policies would create havoc on jobs, tax revenues, tobacco farmers, and the economy in general.


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This page was posted on September 11, 2016.