Consumer Health Digest #17-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 9, 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.


CHILD Inc. has dissolved. Rita Swan has announced that Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty Inc. (CHILD, Inc.) has dissolved. However, a nonprofit, Philadelphia-based think tank, CHILD USA, was founded last year to combine CHILD's focus on harm to children from religious and cultural practices, especially faith-based medical neglect, with the focus of Marci A. Hamilton, J.D., a leading expert on child sex abuse and neglect. Unlike the vast majority of children's advocacy organizations, CHILD USA will not provide services or support to victims but will provide research data that can be used to influence government policies. CHILD Inc., which was formed in 1983, opposed religious exemptions to providing standard preventive and therapeutic care to children. Its founders, Rita and Douglas Swan, lost their only son Matthew in 1977 because they trusted Christian Science practitioners to heal him. Rita will continue to lobby against religious exemptions that protect medically neglectful parents from criminal prosecution. She will also maintain CHILD's Web site, which contains a treasure trove of information about faith-based medical neglect, and idahochildren.org, which spotlights the State of Idaho's abysmal failure to protect its children.


Defiant black salve marketer receives six-year prison sentence. Samuel A. Girod, 57, an Amish farmer who resides in Kentucky, was sentenced to six years in prison plus three years of supervised release for (a) impeding an officer of the United States, (b) obstruction of proceedings before a federal agency, (c) witness tampering, (d) failure to appear, and (e) nine violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act involving products he made and distributed. The judge also ordered Girod to pay a $1,300 assessment plus $14,239 in restitution to customers. Since 2001, despite repeated inspections and warnings from the FDA, Girod manufactured and marketed herbal products with unapproved health claims. In 2013, a federal court ordered him to stop marketing products unless their labeling and advertisement met FDA regulations. When he continued to do so, he was criminally charged with illegal marketing and failing to cooperate with FDA enforcement officials. One of his products was "TO--MOR-GONE," a black salve that he claimed to be effective against skin cancers. Supporters are portraying Girod's prosecution as government overreach. In a TV interview after Girod was sentenced, one said: "All this is is an innocent naive Amish farmer making a living." During the trial, the prosecutors said that "Girod doesn't recognize rules that aren't his own" and "had brought the charges on himself." Cancer Treatment Watch has details about Girod's activities and links to the relevant documents. Quackwatch describes the dangers and regulatory history of black salves.


ACAM past-president disciplined again. The Medical Board of California has disciplined Murray Susser, M.D., for the third time. In 1995, Susser was charged with unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, incompetence, repeated negligent acts, and excessive use of diagnostic procedures. The amended accusation charged that he had failed to diagnose gallstones in one patient and colon cancer in two others. In each case, he ordered inappropriate tests, failed to order appropriate tests, and prescribed vitamins and other inappropriate treatment. In 1997, Susser signed a stipulated settlement under which he paid $15,000 for costs and served three years on probation. In 2005, he was placed on probation again for five years with provisions that he: (a) refrain from prescribing, dispensing, administering, or possessing any controlled substances except for drugs listed in Schedules IV and V of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act, (b) take courses in prescribing practices, (c) undergo a comprehensive assessment of his clinical skills, (d) arrange for monitoring to determine whether he is practicing medicine safely, billing appropriately or both, and (e) pay $5,000 in costs. His probation ended in July 2010, but in 2015 he was accused of negligence and improper prescribing in his management of two patients. In 2016, he signed a stipulated settlement that required him to serve four more years of probation, take several courses and either be monitored or undergo a practice assessment. Susser's Web site describes his practice as "blending traditional and alternative medicine." The site indicates that he entered general practice in 1967 after completing a one-year internship but in 1975 "began to specialize in practice of clinical nutrition, prevention and intravenous nutrition." The practice areas featured on his site include "Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, chelation therapy, fibromyalgia, heavy metal reduction, bio-identical hormone replacement, mixed infection syndrome, and long life medicine." He is a past-president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), the primary promoter of chelation therapy.


"German New Medicine" founder dies. Ryke Geerd Hamer, the developer of "German New Medicine," has died at the age of 82. Hamer claimed that cancer is caused by sudden emotional conflict and can be cured if the conflict is resolved. He further claimed that his method is a "Germanic" alternative to mainstream clinical medicine, which he claimed is part of a Jewish conspiracy to decimate non-Jews. Hamer held a medical license from 1963 until 1986, when it was revoked for malpractice. Swiss and German medical groups have criticized his methods, and anti-quack activists regard him as one of the world's most dangerous quacks.


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