Principle Healthcare and the Unfair Trading Regulations

July 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm (Business, Nutritionism, Principle Healthcare, Remedies, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , )

Following on from my previous post about vitamin pill entrepreneurs Principle Healthcare, I bring you details of a letter I wrote to the authorities regarding the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Some of the claims made on the website I have been investigating are staggering.# Read the rest of this entry »

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Another Report on the Dangers of Vitamins

March 18, 2009 at 1:50 pm (Nutritionism, Supplements) (, , , , )

A submission to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has warned that Folic Acid supplementation is associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Briffa on Statins and CoenzymeQ10

September 29, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Briffa, Nutritionism, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Old news, I know – but it is one of Briffa’s hobby horses (not to mention Cybertiger, for those JABS aficionados reading this) and I happened upon an internet forum discussion that was linking to Briffa’s blog. His blog post contained this gem: Read the rest of this entry »

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PolyMVA Website – Encouraging Patients to Ignore their Oncologist

September 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm (Bad Science, Dangerously Wrong, Remedies, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The PolyMVA survivors website is advising cancer patients to ignore their oncologist, to refuse chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy and to choose an alternative cancer treatment instead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dodgy Supplements for Serious Diseases – Internet Sales

September 12, 2008 at 12:18 pm (Bad Science, Remedies, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Following complaints I made to the FDA and the FDC, the myspace page and the homepage of the vendors of a dietary supplement, PolyMVA (that was being marketed as a cancer drug), were removed. I then found that the supplement was being sold on a website called “Only Nature Finest” – which was also selling supplements for heart attacks (Goji berries and CoQ10, since you ask) and hosting articles about treating AIDS with nutrition. And I quote:

If HIV-1 causes AIDS by depressing body selenium, cysteine, glutamine and tryptophan then the way to treat this disorder is obviously diets enriched in these nutrients

Yes, obviously. “The vile and exploitative scumbags [I was quite angry], they’ve not only circumvented the FDA’s action against their illegal marketing activities by switching websites – they are now also hand-in-glove with people selling food supplement pills to AIDS sufferers and Goji berries to heart attack victims”, I thought to myself. I promptly reported the website to the FDA’s special page: Reporting Unlawful Sales of Medical Products on the Internet and, I am delighted to say, the pages are no longer showing when I click any of the Only Nature’s Finest links I gave in the comments thread on this post. I hope this means they’ve been taken down by the FDA. If you see an American company advertising inappropriate medical- or pseudo-medical products for serious conditions on the internet, feel free to leave a comment here or (even better), report them to the FDA using the link I gave above. Personally, I will be scouting the internets looking for websites selling PolyMVA and reporting each and every one. I’ll keep an eye out for Only Nature’s Finest, too. And props to the FDA for taking prompt action against these dodgy websites.

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Dietary Supplements Advertised as Cancer Drugs

August 24, 2008 at 2:58 pm (Bad Science, Remedies, Supplements) (, , , )

On the Bad Science Forum recently, Deano posted a link to a business selling a dietary supplement Poly MVA (based on a chemotherapeutic Lipoic Acid-Palladium complex) as a cancer drug. I had a quick look at the FDA’s pages on advertising dietary supplements and promoting them to cancer sufferers seemed like a breach of the regulations to me. By law, manufacturers may make three types of claims for their dietary supplement products: health claims, structure/function claims, and nutrient content claims. Health claims describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. The PolyMVA marketing seems to go beyond this. I contacted the FDA and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to check with them. Here’s [approximately, rather than verbatim] what I wrote to the two organisations:

Someone claiming to be based in San Diego is using the internet to advertise a dietary supplement based on a chemotherapeutic [LAPd – Lipoic Acid-Palladium Complex], here: http://www.polymvahealthclub.com/index1.html?lang=en-us&mid=zebra_400 and on social networking sites such as myspace: http://www.myspace.com/cancermedicine

There appears to be no study on the NIH’s Pubmed site that relates to Poly MVA and cancer [albeit there is some for LAPd], but this product is being sold as a cancer drug and there are claims that there is clinical evidence for it: “Poly-MVA, a dietary supplement that has been shown to be very effective in clinical studies conducted by a renowned board-certified oncologist, Dr. James Forsythe” and that it is “the first dietary supplement to be cleared by the FDA for use in a cancer study”.

I checked the FDA’s page on dietary supplement claims and it appears that the advertising for this product may not comply. I’m not sure if this is a matter for the FDA or the FTC, so intend to contact both organisations.

FDA page on health claims: here, list of approved claims: here.

EDIT 7/7/09: Text from comment on another post copied here:

jdc, I’ve attempted to post the following comment to your PolyMVA thread, but it keeps saying “discarded”. I hope you will move this there:

Thank you for writing about this PolyMVA ripoff. I have had my own run-in with these PolyMVA snake oil pushers here:
http://www.ratemds.com/social/?q=node/32285

Like you, I have also reported them to the FDA. Hopefully, the wrath of the government will eventually befall them all in the guise of an early-morning FBI raid.

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IANT write terrible response to Cochrane – and block comments

April 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm (Bad Science, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Irish Association of Nutritional Therapy have written a response to the Cochrane review of antioxidant pills. It’s not very impressive. Holford Watch have posted on it here: IANT and have also attempted to leave a comment (or comments) on the IANT piece. Unfortunately, the IANT appears to be blocking these comments and I haven’t been able to comment either. The following comment was stuck in moderation:

I’m afraid that not everything you have written in this response is true. For example, this: “The final exclusion involves the trials with selenium with no reason as to why. Selenium trials generally show a positive result on the disease in question when supplemented.” is simply untrue – as can be seen if you follow this link: http://holfordwatch.info/2008/04/26/irish-association-of-nutritional-therapy-giving-the-facts-about-the-cochrane-review-of-antioxidant-supplements/

When this comment failed to appear, I fired off a very brief email pointing out just one or two of the mistakes in the IANT piece:

Unfortunately, this piece: http://www.iant.ie/2008/04/18/response-to-the-recent-media-coverage-regarding-antioxidants/ contains several errors. I know that, as nutritional therapists, you will feel compelled to give the public the facts of this case and I am sure that you will amend any errors in your response to Cochrane. I look forward to reading the revised article.
 
Regards,
jdc.
 
“Many of the studies are with dosages that far exceed what is in most vitamin products.” – this has been covered by Dr Ben Goldacre in his Bad Science column in the Guardian. (1)
 
“The authors have excluded over 400 trials many of which have a positive outcome and have no deaths so if these were included the findings would be different.” – the study was on mortality. How exactly would those studies that do not report mortality be useful in studying mortality?
 
“There are no adverse risks with taking vitamin and mineral supplements that are available at the current levels.” – the levels of vitamins and minerals available at many ‘health food’ stores do have associated risks. (See again Ben Goldacre’s comments on available supplements)

“Research in the UK shows that many people are deficient in various nutrients. (4) It also shows that large parts of the population come nowhere near consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables especially in the younger populations. There is ample research to show that at least a third of all cancer is linked to diet.” Yes, cancer is linked to diet (i.e., the food we eat – not the vitamin pills we take). However – the evidence in respect of diet and health is for fruit and vegetables, not isolated nutrients sold in pill form.

See Holford Watch [sorry for the previously broken link] and Bad Science for more on the responses to Cochrane.

Here’s a picture of a Nutritional Therapist engaging with the evidence: Lalala

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More Serotonin Stuff, Patrick Holford and Depression

April 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm (Bad Science, Patrick Holford, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The media simply don’t run news stories that refer to 5-HTP as being risky, as I’ve written about recently, yet they have always been happy enough to promote (or allow columnists to promote) this substance – often without any caveats. Read the rest of this entry »

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Another Holford Response

April 2, 2008 at 10:36 am (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Patrick Holford, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , )

Yesterday I covered Patrick’s response to criticism of his comments on the Gladys Block paper. Now, I’ll take a brief look at the reasons for Mr Holford’s continued support for York Test and York Test’s IgG blood testing kits.

Two types of antibodies, called IgE and IgG, are thought to be the main contenders for most allergic reactions. Both can be reliably tested using a technique known as ELISA.

Here’s my first problem with this response: IgE and IgG are said to be the  ‘main contenders’ for allergic reactions. The expert view seems to be that the “significance of IgG anti-food antibodies is particularly uncertain since the sera of many children with such antibodies in their serum tolerate the foods in question perfectly well.” (The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, via breathspakids). The breathspakids blog is also the source for this quote from The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy:

IgG antibodies to food are commonly detectable in healthy adult patients and children, independent of the presence of absence of food-related symptoms. There is no credible evidence that measuring IgG antibodies is useful for diagnosing food allergy or intolerance, nor that IgG antibodies cause symptoms. The exception is that gliadin IgG antibodies are sometimes useful in monitoring adherence to a gluten-free diet patients with histologically confirmed coeliac disease. Otherwise, inappropriate use of food allergy testing (or misinterpretation of results) in patients with inhalant allergy, for example, may lead to inappropriate and unnecessary dietary restrictions, with particular nutritional implications in children.

Given that there is no credible evidence that measuring IgG antibodies is useful for diagnosing food allergy or intolerance, I can’t see how it can possibly be relevant that IgG “can be reliably tested using a technique known as ELISA.”

Patrick also provides a reference to back up his claims for effectiveness. This reference is to a survey on whether people felt better after following a diet which eliminated the foods that had been identified as allergens by Yorktest. I had a look on Pubmed to see whether I could find G Hardman, Journal of Nutrition and Food Science (2007), vol 37, pp 16-23. Nothing. Which is a shame really – I had quite fancied reading that. Apparently, the study found consistent evidence that noticeable benefit was gained from removing offending foods from the diet. We just don’t know what kind of evidence – were the respondents simply reporting on how they felt or were there objective measures of benefit? Holford then points out that: the more strictly they followed their allergy-free diet, the better their results. That’s an interesting point. Until recently, I had never heard of the confounding effect of compliance. There is a fascinating piece in the New York Times that deals with the Bias of Compliance.

If you want to learn more about expert opinion on IgG, or the House of Lords or Advertising Standards Authority views on this kind of testing, Holford Watch have a piece here that includes direct quotations from a House of Lords committee and from an ASA adjudication. The breathspakids blog has an entire category on IgG. The Bad Science post about the show is here and you can listen again here. I love Radio 4.

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Holford’s Full Responses

April 1, 2008 at 4:10 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Patrick Holford, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , )

Having listened to part two of the Radio 4 show The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists, I followed some links that had been posted on Ben Goldacre’s blog by Patrick Holford’s PR at 100% health and reached a page titled “Patrick’s full responses to Radio Four’s questions”.

The first clarification/response is on the Gladys Block paper. I seem to recall someone on the Radio 4 programme making the point that the people who were taking supplements may well have been taking other positive steps to improve health/maintain good health. I’d imagine it might be tricky to work out if there really were beneficial health effects from supplements if, say, the people who tended to take supplements also tended to: be in a different social class; and/or take more exercise; and/or eat a better diet. Rather than clarifying or defending his position, however, Mr Holford has simply linked to his original comments on the Block paper. No mention of the confounding factors that were referred to during the broadcast. How is that a ‘full response’ to Radio 4’s questions? Never mind ‘full’ – it’s not even a response.

Incidentally, the authors of that study made clear in their conclusion that their “study findings should also be weighed in the context of recent randomized controlled trials and related meta-analyses [39,40] which have raised concern about potential detrimental effects of select dietary supplements, particularly beta carotene and alpha tocopherol.” Ref 39 is to the Bjelakovic study. You know, the one that was a systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials. That’s right – it’s the one that Patrick Holford criticised for not using two observational studies.

*Check out Holford Watch on Patrick and The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists here and here. EDIT: Holford Watch have previously covered the Block paper here.

**Patrick’s pages can be seen here and here.

***PDF of study: here.

****EDIT: Nearly forgot – there’s also a site called Holford Myths.

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