Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Consumer Health Digest Archive (and Links to Related Health Fraud Information Sites)

From the archive http://www.ncahf.org/digest12/index.html

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; other news items; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; research tips; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. The Digest currently has 11,082 subscribers. Items posted to this archive may be updated when relevant information becomes available.


Issue #12-35, October 11, 2012

  • Pediatricians warn against home trampoline use
  • High-quality fluoride information posted
  • “Life coach” loses suit against nutrition licensing board
  • FTC halts dubious insurance plan

Issue #12-34, October 4, 2012

  • Romney campaign embraces Lyme quackery
  • Vitamin D supplementation fails to prevent colds
  • Quantum quackery criticized

Issue #12-33, September 27, 2012

  • Stem cell scammers plead guilty
  • Prominent psychiatric critic dies
  • Medifast subsidiary settles FTC charges

Issue #12-32, September 20, 2012

  • Portland City Council votes to fluoridate.
  • Physicist details why homeopathy is impossible
  • Massachusetts will post more about disciplinary actions

Issue #12-31, September 6, 2012

  • IOM publishes health-care system critique
  • Ginkgo flunks another big Alzheimer’s prevention trial
  • AMA specialty journals will be renamed in 2

 

Related Resources

  • Don’t be fooled by health fraud scams (jflahiff.wordpress.com)
  • Evaluating Health Information on the Internet (US National Cancer Institute)
    This fact sheet contains information to help people decide whether the health information they find on the Internet or receive via e-mail from a Web site is likely to be reliable.
  • Quackwatch (a private corporation operated by Stephen Barrett, MD)
  • Consumer’s Guide to Taking Charge of Health Information (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis)
  • The Penn State Medical Center Library has a great guide to evaluate health information on the Internet.
    • The tips include
      • Remember, anyone can publish information on the internet
      • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
      • If the Web site is primarily about selling a product, the information may be worth checking from another source.
      • Look for who is publishing the information and their education, credentials, and if they are connected with a trusted coporation, university or agency.
      • Check to see how current the information is.
      • Check for accuracy. Does the Web site refer to specific studies or organizations?
  • The Family Caregiver Alliance has a Web page entitled Evaluating Medical Research Findings and Clinical Trials
    Topics include

    • General Guidelines for Evaluating Medical Research
    • Getting Information from the Web
    • Talking with your Health Care Provider
  • And a Rumor Control site of Note (in addition to Quackwatch)
     

    National Council Against Health Fraud

    National Council Against Health Fraud is a nonprofit health agency fousing on health misinformation, fruad, and quackery as public health problems. Links to publications, position papers and more.

 

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Doctors Don’t Tell You” magazine – reviewed in BMJ and Quackometer

From the blog item by Gary Schwitzer at HealthNewsReview.org

Dr. Margaret McCartney, who helped launch the PrivateHealthScreening.org site we wrote about yesterday, has a piece in the BMJ this week, “What a new consumer health magazine doesn’t tell you.”  (Subscription required for full access.) Excerpts:

“It looks just like any other magazine on the shelves of the newsagent aimed at middle aged women: glossy, 100 pages, with a smiling, confident looking woman on the cover. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, a monthly magazine that launched in September 2012, claims to explain how to “discover treatments that are safer and more effective.” …

In the October issue’s news section the article “Thyme is better for acne than creams” starts, “Thyme is more effective than prescription creams for treating acne . . .The herb outperformed pharmaceuticals in a series of laboratory tests, killing the actual bacteria that cause acne . . . Not only is thyme more effective, but it’s kinder on the skin too, say the researchers. Most pharmaceuticals cause a burning sensation and irritation to the skin, whereas thyme and other herbal preparations have none of these side effects.” The article references the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin this year. This research was reported through a press release; it was an in-vitro model; and the researchers did not compare side effects with current prescription creams.

Another article says, “Army personnel with noise deafness and tinnitus are commonly deficient in B12, but enjoy an improvement in symptoms after taking B12 vitamins.” The study referred to contained 12 patients receiving vitamin B12 and was not a randomised controlled trial.

The editorial on Gardasil, headed “Lock up your daughters,” warned that “your doctor and your daughter’s school nurse are not likely to tell you about the 100-plus American girls who suddenly died after receiving an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine.” Although there are valid concerns about the long term efficacy of HPV, to suggest that it has led to death is alarmist and does not reflect or explain the evidence collated by the Food and Drug Administration. Informed choice has to be about fair information, not scaremongering; we should hardly wish for a repeat of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine debacle.

Although medical journals carry advertisements for drugs, the ones in this magazine are an extraordinary shrine to non-evidenced based medicine. …

It is right to criticise medicine, but the same standards must be applied to all interventions, “alternative” or not. We now realise how important it is to ensure that fair evidence, free of bias, is used in making medical decisions. There is no point in substituting bad medicine for bad science, and it is not clear from this magazine where the hierarchies of evidence stand, and the limitations and uncertainties that arise in research are not consistently explained. The magazine’s liability statement—“the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any damage or harm caused by any treatment, advice or information contained in this publication”—should perhaps be better printed on the cover, in an unmissable font.”

She’s not the only one giving What Doctors Don’t Tell You a critical eye. The Quackometer blog refers to “Fifty Shades of Quackery.”

I’ll show you a screenshot from that blog that should be titillating enough to send you there to see more.

“It looks just like any other magazine on the shelves of the newsagent aimed at middle aged women: glossy, 100 pages, with a smiling, confident looking woman on the cover. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, a monthly magazine that launched in September 2012, claims to explain how to “discover treatments that are safer and more effective.” …

In the October issue’s news section the article “Thyme is better for acne than creams” starts, “Thyme is more effective than prescription creams for treating acne . . .The herb outperformed pharmaceuticals in a series of laboratory tests, killing the actual bacteria that cause acne . . . Not only is thyme more effective, but it’s kinder on the skin too, say the researchers. Most pharmaceuticals cause a burning sensation and irritation to the skin, whereas thyme and other herbal preparations have none of these side effects.” The article references the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin this year. This research was reported through a press release; it was an in-vitro model; and the researchers did not compare side effects with current prescription creams.

Another article says, “Army personnel with noise deafness and tinnitus are commonly deficient in B12, but enjoy an improvement in symptoms after taking B12 vitamins.” The study referred to contained 12 patients receiving vitamin B12 and was not a randomised controlled trial.

The editorial on Gardasil, headed “Lock up your daughters,” warned that “your doctor and your daughter’s school nurse are not likely to tell you about the 100-plus American girls who suddenly died after receiving an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine.” Although there are valid concerns about the long term efficacy of HPV, to suggest that it has led to death is alarmist and does not reflect or explain the evidence collated by the Food and Drug Administration. Informed choice has to be about fair information, not scaremongering; we should hardly wish for a repeat of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine debacle.

Although medical journals carry advertisements for drugs, the ones in this magazine are an extraordinary shrine to non-evidenced based medicine. …

It is right to criticise medicine, but the same standards must be applied to all interventions, “alternative” or not. We now realise how important it is to ensure that fair evidence, free of bias, is used in making medical decisions. There is no point in substituting bad medicine for bad science, and it is not clear from this magazine where the hierarchies of evidence stand, and the limitations and uncertainties that arise in research are not consistently explained. The magazine’s liability statement—“the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any damage or harm caused by any treatment, advice or information contained in this publication”—should perhaps be better printed on the cover, in an unmissable font.”

She’s not the only one giving What Doctors Don’t Tell You a critical eye. The Quackometer blog refers to “Fifty Shades of Quackery.”

October 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

News Literacy Project Trains Young People to Be Skeptical Media Consumers (and Health News Evaluation Tips)

Yesterday evening the PBS News Hour had an engaging segment on a news literacy program in several major American cities.
The students learn how to separate fact from fiction in news.

The transcript and video of this 13 December PBS News Hour item may  be found here.

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN: The lesson is part of an effort called the News Literacy Project, a four-year-old program now taught to middle and high school students in 21 inner-city and suburban schools in the Washington, D.C., area, New York City, and Chicago.

It was started by former Los Angeles Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Alan Miller.

ALAN MILLER, News Literacy Project: A century ago, Mark Twain said that a lie can get halfway around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes. In this hyperlinked information age, a lie can get all the way around the world and back while truth is still getting out of bed.

There is so much potential here for misinformation, for propaganda, for spin, all of the myriad sources that are out there. More and more of, the onus is shifting to the consumer.

JEFFREY BROWN: And a slew of recent studies supports the notion that young people seek out traditional news sources less and less and that they have a difficult time knowing how to judge the legitimacy of the information that does come at them.

 

 

Of course, I thought of some of my posts on health literacy…

 

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Finding Aids/Directories | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Be Fooled By Health Fraud Scams

Dont Be Fooled By Health Fraud Scams

 

From the FDA site (click here to read entire article)

Red Flags for Fraud:

  • CURE ALL! For unrelated diseases
  • QUICK FIX! Within days
  • ANCIENT REMEDY! Or a secret formula
  • REVOLUTIONARY! Or new science
  • AMAZING RESULTS! Difficult to verify
  • MY TUMOR SHRUNK! Unproven testimonials
  • ACT NOW! Limited availability
  • LOSE WEIGHT! No diet or exercise
  • MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE!

Visit FDA’s Health Fraud Scams Website!

 

 

The science of public health was still in its infancy in the 19th and early 20th centuries when early incarnations of the modern Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried to protect consumers from “snake oil salesmen” and other shifty characters who swindled the sick and gullible.

Back then the agency was known as the Division, and later the Bureau of Chemistry. Its agents pursued the traveling con men who sold tonics and elixirs—such as “miracle oil” supposedly made from snakes—with promises to cure whatever ails you. Labels did not list ingredients and unsuspecting buyers only found out through bitter experience that they were at best ineffective and at worse deadly.

FDA is still on the case—more than a century later.

The agency has created a new Internet resource to help consumers recognize and protect themselves from the 21st century versions of these bogus health products.

FDA’s Health Fraud Scams website (www.fda.gov/healthfraud) pulls together videos and articles on how to avoid fraudulent schemes, and offers information about products that have been seized, recalled or are the subject of warnings from the agency.

The site also provides links to government resources on health fraud involving FDA-regulated products, such as drugs, dietary supplements, tobacco products, alternative medicines, medical devices, and cosmetics.

Gary Coody, R.Ph., national health fraud coordinator at FDA, calls the site “one-stop shopping” for people who want to learn how to recognize and avoid health fraud scams. Anyone can search the site to see if FDA has taken an action against a product or company. However, just because a product is not listed does not mean that it is legally marketed or safe to use……..

November 18, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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