Consumer Health Digest #17-10
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 5, 2017
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.
Tanning bed use declining but still of concern. USA Today has published an excellent review of the status of tanning bed use in the United States today. [Painter K. Home tanning beds: convenient but dangerous, health experts say. USA Today, Feb 26, 2017] The article notes that more than 10,000 of the 18,000 tanning salons operating in 2010 have closed, but unknown numbers of people continue to use tanning beds in private homes. Behavioral psychologist Sherry Pagoto, PhD, is taking part in a campaign to encourage colleges to reduce easy access to tanning beds on or near college campuses. In 2014, she authored a study which found that 48% of U.S. News and World Report's 125 top colleges had indoor tanning facilities either on campus or in off-campus housing surrounding the schools and that 14% allowed campus cash cards to be used to pay for tanning. In a 2015 interview, she said that these circumstances create a perception among students that colleges endorse tanning despite its association with a greatly elevated cancer risk. An estimated 450,000+ cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer and 10,000+ cases of melanoma each year have been attributed to indoor tanning in the United States, Europe, and Australia. [Weiner MR and others. International prevalence of indoor tanning A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatology 150:390-400, 2014]
Dubious claims abound on Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites. A survey of 392 naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites has found that unsupportable claims for the management of asthma and allergy are widespread. [Murdoch B and others. Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma] The investigators concluded:
- The majority of the clinics studied claim they can either diagnose or treat both allergy/sensitivity and asthma.
- Naturopathic clinic websites have the highest rates of advertising at least one of diagnosis, treatment, or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (85%) and asthma (64%), followed by acupuncturists (68% and 53%, respectively), homeopaths (60% and 54%) and chiropractors (33% and 38%).
- The majority of the advertised interventions lack evidence of efficacy, and some are potentially harmful.
- Food-specific IgG testing was commonly advertised, despite the fact that the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has recommended not to use this test due to the absence of a body of research supporting it.
- Live blood analysis, vega/electrodiagnostic testing, intravenous vitamin C, probiotics, homeopathic allergy remedies, and several other tests and treatments offered all lack substantial scientific evidence of efficacy.
- Some of the proposed treatments—such as ionic foot bath detoxification—are so absurd that they lack even the most basic scientific plausibility.
- A policy response may be warranted in order to safeguard the public interest.
Studies of this type are important because when legislators consider whether to license nonstandard practitioners, they seldom know what these practitioners claim to do.
"Integrative" doctor loses Florida license. The Florida Medical Board revoked the medical license of Kenneth Woliner, M.D., who operated the Holistic Family Medicine clinic in Boca Raton, Florida. The disciplinary action was triggered by his management of a young woman with Hodgkin's lymphoma who died in 2013. The second amended complaint alleged that he:
- Improperly attributed the woman's symptoms to causes other than Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Failed to appropriately treat her underlying illness
- Failed to timely refer her to an oncologist or hematologist for treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Acted in the role of an oncologist without the experience, education, and/or training needed to competently do so
- Failed to maintain adequate records.
In April 2016, following a hearing, an administrative law judge recommended that Woliner's license be revoked and that he pay a fine of $16,000 plus costs and repay $2,990 to the estate of the deceased woman. In November 2016, the board voted to follow this recommendation. During the proceedings, Woliner argued that because he practiced "integrative medicine," he should not be held to the same standard as "conventional" doctors. But the administrative law judge rejected this argument. [Bellamy J. Is there a distinct standard of care for "integrative" physicians? The Woliner case. Science-Based Medicine Blog, Oct 13, 2016]
In 2006, Woliner signed a consent agreement to settle charges that he had improperly diagnosed a patient with a thyroid disorder and treated him with excessive amounts of medication. Under the agreement, Woliner neither admitted or denied fault but agreed to (a) receive a Letter of Concern, (b) pay a $5,000 administrative fine plus costs of $4,400, (c) take continuing education courses in record-keeping, diagnosis of thyroid disorders, and prescribing of abusable drugs, and (d) perform 50 hours of community service.
This page was revised on March 6, 2017.