Consumer Health Digest #17-25

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 25, 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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.


Complications of "chronic Lyme disease" treatment reported. Cases have reported in which treatment for "chronic Lyme disease" resulted in the development of septic shock, osteomyelitis, Clostridium difficile colitis, or paraspinal abscess. [Marzec NS and others. Serious bacterial infections acquired during treatment of patients given a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease—United States. MMWR 66:607-609, 2017]  "Chronic Lyme disease" is not a valid diagnostic entity. Lyme disease infections are usually cured by 2 to 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment. However, a small network of physicians and their patients have been barraging the public with claims that thousands of people being maimed, killed, and bankrupted each year by chronic Lyme disease. They incorrectly assert that Lyme is a deadly, chronic disease that requires long-term antibiotic therapy even though clinical trial evidence shows no advantage over placebo treatment. [Melia TM, Auwaerter PG. Time for a different approach to Lyme disease and long-term symptoms. New England Journal of Medicine 374:1277-1278, 2016]


Anti-vaccination statements of Canadian naturopaths criticized. Canadian researchers who examined the Web sites of 330 naturopaths who practice in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba have reported that 40 included vaccine hesitancy discourse and 26 offered vaccine or flu shot alternatives. [Caulfield T and others. Injecting doubt: responding to the naturopathic anti-vaccination rhetoric. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, June 20, 2017] The researchers concluded:

It is essential that we combat these dangerous misrepresentations. Various legal and policy approaches could be taken to address this issue. The Competition Bureau and Health Canada could modify advertising standards to prohibit all clearly unsubstantiated treatment and performance claims online, and the latter could even act to prevent entirely the sale of demonstrably ineffective natural health products like homeopathic vaccines. After all, these products need not be intrinsically harmful to ultimately cause harm. Provincial regulation has helped to legitimize naturopaths, making their claims more persuasive. It would be wise to roll back the scope of naturopath self-regulation, and to establish third-party oversight and management of disciplinary bodies. If naturopaths were truly an evidence-based profession and held to a science-informed standard, one would expect the relevant regulatory bodies to take action on the misleading advertising. Naturopaths genuinely interested in the science of health care would logically also be open and welcoming to such changes. The scope of offerings available for naturopaths to advertise would certainly be diminished, and these changes would likely entail a ban on naturopaths providing any advice or service relating to vaccination, other than a referral to an appropriate, science-informed, healthcare provider. As a result, we could expect an improvement in the accuracy of representations made to Canadians trying to make difficult health care decisions. Misrepresentations relating to vaccination can be matters of life and death. As such, it is essential to employ the various legal tools that could be used to help address this dangerous social trend.


Anti-vax myths lampooned. Comedian John Oliver has debunked the common myths and fears that influence some parents to delay or avoid vaccinating their children. The June 26 "Last Week Tonight" TV episode can be viewed on YouTube.


Quack device exhibit announced. Loma Linda University has opened its Quack 'o' Rama of devices collected by the late professor, William T. Jarvis, Ph.D. The exhibit can be viewed free of charge during regular hours in the university's Del E. Webb Memorial Library until September 29, 2017.


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This page was posted on June 27, 2017.