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Consumer Health

A Guide to Intelligent Decisions





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Make Good Decisions about Your Health Care The most comprehensive consumer health text available, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions offers a panoramic view of the health marketplace. You’ll learn how to sharpen your critical consumer skills so you can distinguish valid health claims from those that are fraudulent or misleading. By offering science-based facts and guidelines, Consumer Health provides the tools you need to make smart decisions about health care products and services for yourself and your family.

Some of the many new and revised topics include:

Updated information on health care economics, refl ecting the most recent legislation and debates regarding insurance and mandatory coverage and how it affects you.

New and expanded material on complementary and alternative medicine, including the latest on fad diseases, “energy medicine,” accreditation standards, and diploma mills.

Current research and information on nutrition and weight management, including “detox” products, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, and the newly-designed MyPlate food guide.

About the Authors

Stephen Barrett, M.D., has been investigating and writing about consumer health issues for more than 40 years. His Quackwatch website serves as a clearinghouse for information on health frauds and quackery. He serves as Vice President of the Institute for Science in Medicine, is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, edits Consumer Health Digest, and is a peer-review panelist for several top medical journals.

William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., is a health educator and professor in the Department of Public Health at California State University, Los Angeles. He is also the associate editor of Consumer Health Digest, co-host of the Credential Watch website, and a member of the editorial board of the journal FACT (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies: An Evidence-Based Approach).

Manfred Kroger, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and Society at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has won several teaching awards. He is a science communicator for the Institute of Food Technologists and is scientifi c editor of its online journal, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. He is also associate editor of the Journal of Food Science and a scientifi c advisor to the American Council on Science and Health.

Harriet Hall, M.D., a retired family physician and colonel, served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. Her administrative positions included chief of clinic services and director of base medical services. She now devotes her time to investigating questionable health claims and writing and lecturing about pseudoscience, quackery, “alternative medicine,” and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazines and a founding member and editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog.

Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., an expert on quality of care, is president and medical director of South Shore Health Care in Braintree, Massachusetts, where he practices internal, oral, and occupational medicine. He serves on the medical faculties of Boston University and Tufts University and is used as a consultant by many regulatory and law enforcement agencies.




1179536 01/28/12 C Y








CONSUMER HEALTH A Guide to Intelligent


STEpHEN BARRETT, MD Author, Editor, Consumer Advocate Webmaster, Quackwatch Network

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

WiLLiAM M. LONDON, EDD, MpH Professor, Department of Public Health

California State University Los Angeles, California

MANfRED KROgER, pHD Professor Emeritus of Food Science

Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and Society The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, Pennsylvania

HARRiET HALL, MD Retired Family Physician

Puyallup, Washington

ROBERT S. BARATz, MD, DDS, pHD President and Medical Director, South Shore Health Care

Braintree, Massachusetts

Ninth Edition


Published by McGraw-Hill, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Copyright © 2013 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Previous editions © 2007, 2002, 1997. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.


This book is printed on recycled, acid-free paper containing 10% postconsumer waste.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 QDB/QDB 1 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

ISBN 978-0-07-802848-9 MHID 0-07-802848-5

Vice President & Editor-in-Chief: Michael Ryan Vice President & Director of Specialized Publishing: Janice M. Roerig-Blong Publisher: David Patterson Executive Editor: Christopher Johnson Marketing Coordinator: Colleen P. Havens Development Editor: Darlene Schueller Senior Project Manager: Lisa Bruflodt Cover Designer: Studio Montage, St. Louis, Missouri Design Coordinator: Brenda A. Rowles Buyer: Sue Culbertson Media Project Manager: Sridevi Palani Primary Typeface:11-point Times Composition: Stephen Barrett, M.D. Printer: Quad/Graphics

All credits appearing on page or at the end of the book are considered to be an extension of the copyright page.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Consumer health : a guide to intelligent decisions / Stephen Barrett ...[et al.]. — 9th ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-07-802848-9 (alk. paper) 1. Medical care. 2. Health products. 3. Quacks and quackery. 4. Consumer education. I. Barrett, Stephen, 1933- RA410.5.C645 2013 362.1--dc23 2011039127


Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who resides near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has achieved national renown as an author, editor, and con- sumer advocate. In addition to heading Quackwatch, he is vice president of the Institute for Scientific Medicine and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly called CSICOP). In 1984, he received an FDA Commissioner’s Special Citation Award for Public Service in fighting nutrition quackery. In 1986, he was awarded honorary membership in the American Dietetic Association. From 1987 through 1989, he taught health education at The Pennsylvania State University. In 2001 he received the Distinguished Service to Health Educa- tion Award from the American Association for Health Education. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America since 2001 and is also listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who in Medicine and Health Care, and Who’s Who in the World. An expert in medical communications, Dr. Barrett operates 25 Web sites; edits Consumer Health Digest (a free weekly electronic newsletter); is medical editor of Prometheus Books; and is a peer-review panelist for several top medical journals. His 51 books include The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America and seven of the previous editions of Consumer Health. His other major works include Dubious Cancer Treat- ment, published by the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society; Health Schemes, Scams, and Frauds, published by Consumer Reports Books; The Vitamin Pushers: How the “Health Food” Industry Is Selling America a Bill of Goods, published by Prometheus Books; and Reader’s Guide to “Alternative” Health Methods, published by the American Medical Associa- tion. His Quackwatch Web site, which serves as a clear- inghouse for information on health frauds and quackery, has won more than 70 honors and awards. Since moving to North Carolina in 2007, he has been swimming com- petitively and has won 25 state championship events.

William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., is a professor in the Honors College and the Department of Public Health at California State University, Los Angeles. He

is also associate editor of Consumer Health Digest, co-host of the Credential Watch Web site, a consultant to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a Quackwatch advisor, an advisor to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a founding fellow of the Institute of Science in Medicine, a member of the review board of the American Journal of Health Behavior, and a member of the International Editorial Board of the journal FACT (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies: An Evidence-Based Approach). He was an associate professor and chair of the Department of General Studies at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, where he led the initiation of the Master’s Program in Urban Public Health. He has also been an associate professor of health education at Kent State University; founding president of the Ohio Council Against Health Fraud; president of the National Council Against Health Fraud; faculty mentor in public health at Walden Univer- sity; professor of Health Sciences at Touro University International; associate professor and director of the Graduate Program in Health Care Management at Col- lege of St. Elizabeth; director of public health for ACSH; director of communications at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; and executive direc- tor of RAP, Inc., a nonprofit mental health and senior citizens service agency in Genesee County, New York.

Manfred Kroger, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Professor Emeritus of Sci- ence, Technology and Society at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has won several teaching awards. He is a science communicator for the Institute of Food Technologists and is scientific editor of its online journal, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. He also serves as associate editor of the Journal of Food Science, an ACSH scientific advisor, and a technical editor for Prometheus Books. He has conducted research in analytical chemistry (pesticide residues), food composition, fermented milk products, and dairy processing technology. Even though retired, he remains professionally active at Penn State and nation- ally and internationally. His university courses included

About the Authors


food laws and regulations, toxicology, introductory food science, dairy technology, and a very popular university- wide general education course entitled “Food Facts and Fads.” His other professional activities include lecturing at public and professional meetings, expert testimony in court and at government hearings, and translation of German writings. In 1999 he was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists. In 2003, he served as the editor of the Proceedings of the 12th World Congress of Food Science and Technology.

Harriet Hall, M.D., is a retired family physician who resides in Puyallup, Washington. She served for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, from which she retired in 1989 as a full colonel. In addition to practicing family medicine and flight medicine, she held administrative positions including Chief of Aerospace Medicine and Director of Base Medical Services. Since retiring, Dr. Hall has devoted her time to investigating questionable health claims and writing and lecturing about pseudo- science, quackery, “alternative medicine,” and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazines and writes the latter’s “SkepDoc” column. She is also a founding member and editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog; an advisor to the Quackwatch network; an editorial review board member for the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Da- tabase; a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry; and a founding fellow and board member emerita of the Institute for Science in Medicine. Her 2008 book, Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon, describes how she became a pilot and helped bring about equality for women physicians in the Air Force. Her Web site is www.skepdoc.info.

Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D.,who contrib-uted mainly to the medical and dental chapters of this book, is an internist, dentist, and researcher who resides in Newton, Massachusetts. The founder of four companies, he has also served as medical director for two others in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. He has been involved with issues regarding the safety and proper use of drugs and biomaterials since 1980. He has served on the medical and dental faculties of Northwestern and Tufts universities. Currently he serves on the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine, having initially been appointed in 1976. His broad knowledge of interactions of materials and the body has been sought by numerous licensing boards, regulatory agencies, universities, government agencies, insurance companies, and professional associations. He is also an expert in medical database applications and analyses. Dr. Baratz has worked for more than 25 years in dental and medical practice for private, public, and government entities, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Daughters of Charity, and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He has also worked for the Agency for International Development. Currently he is President and Medical Director of South Shore Health Care in Braintree, Massachusetts, where he practices internal and occupational medicine. He has also served as NCAHF President; a scientific advisor to ACSH; and President of International Medical Consultation Services, Inc., of Newton, Massachusetts. In 1992, the American Dental Association gave him a Presidential Citation for his work in advancing oral public health. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.

About the Authorsiv

More is known today about achieving and maintain-ing good health than ever before. Life expectancy is at an all-time high, and although there is still much room for improvement, health-related accomplishments have exceeded the fondest dreams of past visionaries. This progress has been partly due to a safer environ- ment that includes cleaner water, safer food, and better living space. Yet we hear plenty of news about the en- vironment that concerns us. Preventive and therapeutic medical care have advanced tremendously, yet we worry about the risks associated with immunization, cancer therapies, prescription drugs, surgery, and many other methods of treatment. How can we resolve our concerns and reap the benefits of modern scientific discoveries? The key is to become well-informed. The challenges involved are enormous. The health marketplace—the world of commercial activity for health-related products and services—is complex and dynamic. The Internet offers vast amounts of informa- tion, but much of it is not trustworthy. Health concerns can be overwhelming, especially for people confronted with medical crises. Quackery is more pervasive and far trickier than most people realize. (As noted by the late James Harvey Young, Ph.D., “Quacks never sleep.”) Health-care costs continue to rise despite numerous reform efforts. The rapidly growing older adult popula- tion faces a bewildering array of choices and obstacles for obtaining and paying for appropriate health care. It can also be difficult to determine what health care actu- ally costs and to obtain the best prices. In addition, many people lack access to adequate health care because of cultural, transportation, language, and economic barriers. Government and private agencies protect consumer rights in some ways but not others. The health-care industry is accountable to consumers to some extent, but quality is often elusive and abuses persist. Some scams are even facilitated by legislation and government policies. Consumer advocacy calls for justice and fair play in the marketplace. Yet many self-appointed “consumer advocates” do not act in the public’s interest. Although some are sincere and make a contribution, others engage in irrational business bashing or act from motives of per- sonal aggrandizement. Some business trade associations even pose as “consumer groups” and seek self-serving legislation.

Consumer Health offers a panoramic view of the health marketplace. It explains and supports the scientific methods that are essential for validating claims about how products and services affect health. It can help you to: • Understand how medical facts are determined and where

to get appropriate information and advice • Avoid wasting money on unnecessary, ineffective, or unsafe

products and services • Take care of yourself and minimize your need to spend

money on health products and services • Choose appropriate health products and services to meet

your needs • Get the most value out of your health dollars • Optimize benefits from encounters with health-care provid-

ers and facilities while minimizing the potential for harm • Assert and protect your rights • Set reasonable expectations for what health care can do • Evaluate how political issues affect access to health-related

innovations and accountability of marketers

The key to intelligent decision-making is to use relevant and accurate sources of information. Consumer Health is both an introductory text and a reference book on the opportunities and pitfalls of the health market- place. The various chapters offer hundreds of practical tips; the Appendix provides a comprehensive list of trustworthy sources. You will get the most out of the book by using the detailed Index to search for information and the Glossary for definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar. We also operate many Web sites that can supplement your coursework. Consumer Health Sourcebook (www. chsourcebook.com) provides hyperlinks to dependable online sources. It also links to Consumer Health Digest, a free weekly e-mail report of relevant news. Internet Health Pilot (www.ihealthpilot.org) is a gateway to ad- ditional trustworthy information. Quackwatch (www. quackwatch.org) and its many subsidiary sites provide comprehensive articles about quackery, health fraud, and consumer health strategy. All of these sites are accessible free of charge. Visiting them is a good way to enhance your learning experience.

Stephen Barrett, M.D. William M. London, Ed.D, M.P.H. Manfred Kroger, Ph.D. Harriet Hall, M.D. Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D.

To the Reader


Preface for Instructors


As have previous editions, this ninth edition of Consumer Health emphasizes the opportunities and pitfalls in the health marketplace and aims to help students protect their health and their pocketbook.

Goal for This Revision The book’s fundamental purpose is to provide trustwor- thy information and guidelines to enable people to select health products and services intelligently. This edition culminates our review of thousands of books, journal articles, Web sites, agency reports, and feature stories, as well as our own original investigations and critiques. Readers will find the information useful in applying the caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) concept to the health marketplace. The underlying principles of consumer protection were identified in the Consumer Bill of Rights promul- gated by President John F. Kennedy and have guided the development of this textbook. President Kennedy declared that consumers have the right to purchase safe products and services, to be correctly informed, to freely choose products and services, and to be heard by the government and others when injustices occur. We strongly support consumer awareness and efforts to as- sert and protect these rights.

Intended Audience Consumer Health has been designed as a sole required textbook for consumer health courses. Selected chapters of the book (see “Publisher’s Notice” box) can also be useful as required or supplemental readings for other courses in health education; community health; public health; family and consumer sciences; consumer edu- cation; health psychology; medical sociology; human ecology; and social welfare. School districts will find Consumer Health useful as a reference for teachers and students as well as an aid in curriculum development. Professional health-care providers can use this text to prepare for public presentations and can make it avail- able in their offices for perusal by clients.

Timeliness of References Every topic in this book has been carefully researched. In most cases, the more than 1500 cited references

represent the latest authoritative information we could locate. Many more systematic reviews and meta-analyses have been cited in this edition than in previous editions. Some references may seem outdated. However, unless otherwise stated, we believe these still reflect the cur- rent marketplace. References more than 10 years old are included for historical reasons or because they provide insights or document the source of well-articulated quo- tations that are still timely. Some reports published long ago are the only ones available that address important concepts. Chapter 1 provides information on how to read cita- tions and locate the references cited in the text. Those that

Publisher’s Notice

McGraw-Hill Create™ Craft your teaching resources to match the way you teach! With McGraw-Hill Create, you can easily rear- range chapters, combine material from other content sources, and quickly upload content you have writ- ten like your course syllabus or teaching notes. Find the content you need in Create by searching through thousands of leading McGraw-Hill textbooks. Arrange your book to fit your teaching style. Create even allows you to personalize your book’s appearance by selecting the cover and adding your name, school, and course information. Order a Create book and you’ll receive a complimentary print review copy in 3–5 business days or a complimentary electronic review copy (eComp) via e-mail in minutes. Go to www.mcgrawhillcreate. com today and register to experience how McGraw-Hill Create empowers you to teach your students your way.

Electronic Textbook Option This text is offered through CourseSmart for both in- structors and students. CourseSmart is an online resource where students can purchase the complete text online at almost half the cost of a traditional text. Purchasing the eTextbook allows students to take advantage of CourseSmart’s Web tools for learning, which include full text search, notes and highlighting, and e-mail tools for sharing notes between classmates. To learn more about CourseSmart options, contact your sales representative or visit www.CourseSmart.com.

Preface for Instructors vii

may be especially useful for students seeking additional information are listed with boldface numbers. When citing material on Web sites, we report the publication date when the site identifies it. When no date is posted, we report when we last accessed the page.

Internet Integration Another important feature of this edition is its integra- tion with our Consumer Health Sourcebook Web site (www.chsourcebook.com). The “References” section of this site provides links to many full-text articles and to abstracts of most of the journal articles. Suggestions for course objectives, teaching/learning activities, a sample course outline, and links to hundreds of organizations that provide trustworthy information are also posted. We encourage students and instructors to subscribe to Consumer Health Digest, a free weekly e-mail news- letter edited by Dr. Barrett with help from Dr. London. (To subscribe, see www.ncahf.org/digest/chd.html.) At the publisher’s Web site (www.mhhe.com/bar- rett9e), instructors will find sample test questions and PowerPoint presentations to use with the book.

Organization As in the eighth edition, the text is broadly divided into six parts: I. Dynamics of the Health Marketplace focuses on past and present problems. After defining the major consumer health issues, it discusses how the scientific method is used to determine medical truths, how con- sumers can separate fact from fiction, how frauds and quackery can be identified, and how advertising and other marketing activities influence consumer decisions. II. Health-Care Approaches covers basic medical care and the services of many types of practitioners and facilities. III. Nutrition and Fitness integrates what consum- ers need to know about the extremely important topics of nutrition, weight control, and exercise. Its chapters provide the necessary tools to distinguish science-based methods from fads, fallacies, and scams. IV. Personal Health Concerns provides a guide to preventing and managing health problems, including several in which self-care is very important. Separate chapters cover cardiovascular disease and cancer with an emphasis on the choices consumers face. V. Other Products and Services covers a myriad of other subjects that affect most, if not all, consumers. These include drug products, skin care and image en- hancement, contraceptive methods, vision and hearing

aids, other devices, death-related services, and health- care facilities. VI. Protection of the Consumer focuses on legal and economic issues involved in protecting consumers. These include health insurance, health-care financing, consumer-protection laws and agencies, and strategies for intelligent consumers.

Features and New Material All features from the eighth edition have been retained. Many chapters contain vignettes (“Personal Glimpses”) to stimulate reader interest and “Consumer Tip” and “Consumer Insight” boxes that emphasize key points. Many checklists and “It’s Your Decision” boxes reflect “real-life” decisions that readers may face. The “Key Concepts” box at the beginning of each chapter states what we believe are the most important lessons to be learned from the chapter material. Extensive searches of the scientific literature, court documents, and other relevant reports over an 18-month period have provided information to update the contents of this edition.

• Chapter 1 (Consumer Health Issues) introduces the im- portant issues facing consumers in today’s marketplace. New material about cognitive bias explains how distortions of thinking can lead to inaccurate conclusions and faulty judgment.

• Chapter 2 (Separating Fact from Fiction) describes how the scientific community strives to determine what is factual and how consumers face an often bewildering array of information that can be unbalanced, inaccurate, and even fraudulent.

• Chapter 3 (Frauds and Quackery) explains why people are vulnerable and tells how to avoid quack practices. New material notes how loss of faith in many of our once-trusted institutions has made quack claims seem more credible.

• Chapter 4 (Advertising and Other Promotional Activities) describes how sellers market their wares and notes how the multilevel marketing industry thwarted a proposed Federal Trade Commission rule intended to curb its misleading practices.

• Chapter 5 (Science-Based Health Care) describes the training and professional activities of physicians and many ancillary providers. It also incorporates U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s latest conclusions about screening tests, including its skepticism about routine PSA testing.

• Chapter 6 (Mental and Behavioral Help) provides a com- prehensive guide to mental help and notes that psychiatrists are shifting away from psychotherapy. The section on ques- tionable practices and practitioners has been expanded and cautions against the use of poorly trained “life coaches.”

• Chapter 7 (Dental Care) provides a comprehensive dental guide and warns against the increasing use of questionable

Preface for Instructorsviii

screening devices and expensive cosmetic dental proce- dures intended to create a “perfect bite.”

• Chapter 8 (The “CAM” Movement) describes a multitude of theories and practices that remain unsubstantiated and lack a scientifically plausible rationale. It also notes the failure of accrediting agencies to control the spread of unscientific teachings in professional schools (including medical schools).

• Chapter 9 (A Close Look at Chiropractic) spotlights the in- fluence of chiropractic on the consumer health marketplace and summarizes the latest research on spinal manipulation.

• Chapter 10 (Basic Nutrition Concepts) incorporates the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA Food Guidance System (Choose MyPlate) and tells where to get trustworthy nutrition information and advice.

• Chapter 11 (Nutrition Fads, Fallacies, and Scams) includes up-to-date evaluations of dietary supplement products and herbal products and background material on promoters of nutritional misinformation.

• Chapter 12 (Weight Control) notes the alarming increase of obesity in the United States and discusses appropriate and inappropriate weight-control measures.

• Chapter 13 (Fitness Concepts, Products, and Services) reviews the fundamental concepts typically addressed in personal health courses, but also includes important details about practitioners, information resources, products, ser- vices, popular misconceptions, and scams.

• Chapter 14 (Personal Health and Safety), which is a new chapter, focuses on health promotion, injury prevention, risk perception, self-care, and the management of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic condi- tions. It also notes how information from the Internet and elsewhere can help or undermine prudent behavior. A new section warns against the widely circulating myths that undermine public health efforts.

• Chapter 15 (Cardiovascular Disease) contains new and updated information about risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke and provides guidelines for reducing the risks.

• Chapter 16 (Cancer) covers cancer causation, prevention, diagnosis, and prognosis and contrasts science-based and dubious treatments. The new topics include vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and dubious information sources.

• Chapter 17 (Drug Products) includes new information about commonly used nonprescription (over-the-counter) drugs and how to save money on drug costs.

• Chapter 18 (Skin Care and Image Enhancement) covers a wide variety of topics related to skin care plus new material about image-enhancement schemes and frauds.

• Chapter 19 (Sexual and Reproductive Health) covers products and services related to sexual and reproductive functions. It includes new and updated information about birth control, birthing options, and hormone-replacement therapy, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

• Chapter 20 (Health Devices) contains updated information about device regulation and expanded coverage of question- able devices that have been flooding the health marketplace. New topics include spinal decompression machines, “de- toxification” devices, and alleged performance enhancing bracelets.

• Chapter 21 (Coping with Death) provides current informa- tion on advance directives and organ donation and cautions about stem-cell clinics and “biologic age” testing.

• Chapter 22 (Health-Care Facilities) notes how the delivery of health-care services is changing and describes the salient features of various options. It also provides advice on how to choose among the various alternatives.

• Chapter 23 (Health Insurance) describes the basic types and features of health insurance and outlines the major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

• Chapter 24 (Health-Care Financing) provides the latest available statistics on national health expenditures, states why insurance reform has been desperately needed, and describes the decades-long struggle to control costs and increase access to medical care.

• Chapter 25 (Consumer Laws, Agencies, and Strategies) details the regulatory and educational activities of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the FTC; describes physician regulation; and indicates what consumers can do to help improve the health marketplace.

• The Appendix provides comprehensive lists of agencies and organizations that offer trustworthy information. The Consumer Health Sourcebook Web site links to most of them.

• The Glossary clarifies important jargon used in the book and defines other terms of interest to health consumers.

Acknowledgments The authors thank John E. Dodes, D.D.S., who reviewed the dental care chapter; Walter A. Zelman, Ph.D., of California State University (Los Angeles), who offered helpful suggestions for the chapters on insurance and health-care financing. The photograph on page 154 is reproduced with permission from Aurora & Quanta Productions, Portland, Maine. The VIPPS logo on page 358 appears with permission of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Our project coordinator, who guided production and permitted this text to remain a powerful voice, was Vicki Malinee of Van Brien & Associates. Freelance editor Sarah West, of Belleville, Illinois, did her usual superb job of copy editing. We also thank the many instructors who continue to provide suggestions for new research and topics to include in the text.

i. DyNAMiCS Of THE HEALTH MARKETpLACE 1. Consumer Health Issues, 1 Misleading Information, 2 Quackery and Health Fraud, 5 Problems with Products, 6 Problems with Services, 7 Problems with Costs and Access, 8 Problems with Risk Perception, 8 The Need for Consumer Protection, 8 Intelligent Consumer Behavior, 10

2. Separating Fact from Fiction, 13 How Facts Are Determined, 14 Peer Review, 17 Trustworthiness of Sources, 19 Prudent Use of the Internet, 27 Further Suggestions for Consumers, 30

3. Frauds and Quackery, 33 Definitions, 34 Scope, 35 Vulnerability, 36 Hazards, 37 Common Misconceptions, 38 Recognizing Quackery, 41 Conspiracy Claims, 42 The Freedom-of-Choice Issue, 43

4. Advertising and Other Promotional Activities, 45 Psychologic Manipulation, 46 Puffery, Weasel Words, and Half Truths, 48 Marketing Outlets, 49 Professional Advertising, 49 Marketing by Hospitals, 50 Prescription Drug Marketing, 51 Nonprescription Drug Advertising, 53 Tobacco Promotion, 53 Food Advertising, 54 Dietary Supplement Promotion, 54 Mail-Order Quackery, 57 Weight-Control Promotions, 59 Youth and Beauty Aids, 59

Exercise and Fitness Products, 60 Program-Length Infomercials, 60 Multilevel Marketing (MLM), 61 Telemarketing Schemes, 62 Industry Self-Regulation, 62 Regulatory Agencies, 63

ii. HEALTH-CARE AppROACHES 5. Science-Based Health Care, 65 Health-Care Personnel, 66 Choosing a Physician, 70 Basic Medical Care, 75 Surgical Care, 80 Quality of Medical Care, 82 The Intelligent Patient, 85

6. Mental and Behavioral Help, 89 Who Should Seek Help?, 90 Mental Health Practitioners, 90 Psychologic Methods, 93 Drug Therapy, 94 Electroconvulsive Therapy, 95 Psychosomatic Disorders, 96 Inpatient Care, 96 Help for Addictive Behavior, 96 Selecting a Therapist, 97 Questionable “Self-Help” Products, 98 Questionable Practices, 100 Mismanagement of Psychotherapy, 107

7. Dental Care, 111 Dentists, 112 Allied Dental Personnel, 112 Tooth Decay, 113 Fluoridation, 114 Periodontal Disease, 115 Self-Care, 116 Dental Products, 117 Dental Restorations, 119 Endodontics (Root Canal Therapy), 120 Orthodontics, 120 Dentures, 121 Dental Implants, 121



Dental X-Ray Procedures, 121 Questionable Procedures, 122 Dental Quackery, 124 Choosing a Dentist, 126

8. The “CAM” Movement, 131 Classification, 132 Popularity, 134 Common Themes, 135 Homeopathy, 137 Acupuncture and TCM, 141 Naturopathy, 143 Natural Hygiene, 145 Iridology, 145 Reflexology, 146 Cranial Therapy, 147 Aromatherapy, 147 “Energy Healing,” 147 Massage Therapy, 148 Psychic Healing, 148 Astrology, 151 Transcendental Meditation, 152 Unscientific Medical Practices, 154 Supportive Organizations 158 “Medical Freedom” Laws, 158 The NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), 158

9. A Close Look at Chiropractic, 163 Historical Perspective, 164 Chiropractic Philosophy, 165 Chiropractic Education, 168 Research Findings, 169 Problems for Consumers, 170

iii. NUTRiTiON AND fiTNESS 10. Basic Nutrition Concepts, 175 Major Food Components, 176 Meeting Nutrient Needs, 179 Food-Group Systems, 182 Evaluating Your Diet, 183 Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers, 183 Vegetarianism, 184 “Fast Food,” 186 Nutrients of Special Concern, 186 Nutrition Labeling, 187 Trustworthy Information Sources, 191

11. Nutrition Fads, Fallacies, and Scams, 195 Food Faddism and Quackery, 196 Dietary Supplements, 197 Megavitamin Claims vs Facts, 203 Appropriate Use of Supplements, 206 “Organic” Foods, 206 “Health” and “Natural” Foods, 207 Raw Foods and “Juicing,” 213 “Medicinal” Use of Herbal Products, 213 Macrobiotic Diets, 219 Dubious Diagnostic Tests, 219 Promotion of Questionable Nutrition, 221 Promotional Organizations, 227 Prominent Individual Promoters, 228

12. Weight Control, 233 Basic Concepts, 234 Eating Disorders, 238 The U.S. Weight-Loss Marketplace, 240 Questionable Diets, 240 Prescription Drugs, 243 Nonprescription Products, 244 Low-Calorie Products, 246 Bariatric Surgery, 248 Dubious Products and Procedures, 248 Federal Trade Commission Actions, 250 Weight-Control Organizations, 252 Suggestions for Weight Control, 254

13. Fitness Concepts, Products, and Services, 259 Public Perceptions, 260 Benefits of Exercise, 261 Types of Exercise, 262 Components of Fitness, 262 Starting an Exercise Program, 263 Personal Trainers, 269 Sports Medicine Specialists, 270 Exercise Equipment and Supplies, 270 Exercise Facilities, 276 Martial Arts Training, 278 Children’s Exercise Centers, 278 Exercise While Traveling, 278 Exercise and Weight Control, 279 Nutrition for Athletes, 279 Anabolic Steroids, 281 Other “Ergogenic Aids,” 282



14. Personal Health and Safety, 287 Types (Levels) of Prevention, 288 Health-Promoting Behaviors, 288 Safety Measures, 291 Indoor Air Quality, 291 Risk Perception, 292 Self-Diagnosis, 292 Managing Chronic Disease, 295 Self-Help Advice, 300 Self-Help Groups, 301 Questionable Self-Help Devices, 301 Internet Considerations, 301

15. Cardiovascular Disease, 305 Significance of Cardiovascular Disease, 306 Risk Factors for Coronary Heart Disease, 306 Blood Lipid Levels, 307 Cholesterol Guidelines, 309 Dietary Modification, 311 Lipid-Lowering Drugs, 315 Preventive Use of Aspirin, 317 Questionable Preventive Measures, 318 High Blood Pressure, 320 Heart Attacks, 322 Diagnostic Tests, 322 Surgery to Restore Blood Flow, 324 Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs, 326

16. Cancer, 329 Avoidable Causes of Cancer, 330 Preventive Measures, 331 Diagnosis, 331 Prognosis, 332 Evidence-Based Treatment Methods, 332 Diet and Cancer Prevention, 333 Susceptibility to Cancer Quackery, 334 Questionable Methods, 335 Promotion of Questionable Methods, 344 Trustworthy Information Sources, 345 Treatment Guidelines, 345 Consumer Protection Laws, 346


17. Drug Products, 349 Medication Types, 350

Pharmacists, 351 Prescription Drugs, 353 Generic vs Brand-Name Drugs, 354 Drug Interactions, 355 Drug Recalls, 355 Counterfeit Drugs, 355 Internet Pharmacy Sales, 358 Over-the-Counter Drugs, 359 External Analgesics, 360 Internal Analgesics, 361 Antacids and Other Heartburn Remedies, 364 Antimicrobial Drug Products, 364 Cough and Cold Remedies, 365 Sore-Throat Products, 367 Ophthalmic Products, 367 Diarrhea Remedies, 368 Anti-Hemorrhoidals, 368 Laxatives, 369 Smoking Deterrents, 370 Stimulants for Fatigue, 371 Sleep Aids, 371 Motion Sickness Remedies, 372 Iron-Containing Products, 372 Home Medicine Cabinet, 373 Prudent Use of Medication, 373

18. Skin Care and Image Enhancement, 379 Cosmetic Regulation, 380 Soaps and Cleansers, 381 Moisturizers, 381 Questionable Claims, 382 Wrinkles and Age Spots, 383 Fade Creams, 384 Antiperspirants and Deodorants, 384 Acne Care, 384 Head Hair and Scalp Care, 386 Hair Loss, 388 Tattoos and Permanent Makeup, 389 Body Piercing, 390 Treatment of Common Foot Problems, 390 Poison Ivy, 390 Insect Repellents, 391 Sun Protection, 391 Camouflage Cosmetics, 393 Cosmetic Procedures, 393 Bogus Breast and Penis Enlargement Claims, 398

Contents xi

19. Sexual and Reproductive Health, 401 Menstrual Products, 402 Menstrual Problems, 403 Vaginal Hygiene, 404 Vaginitis, 405 “Jock Itch,” 405 Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 405 Contraception, 406 Voluntary Abortions, 410 Infertility, 411 Genetic Testing and Prenatal Counseling, 411 Pregnancy and Delivery, 411 Cord Blood Banking, 414 Infant Feeding, 414 Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms, 415 Alleged Sex Enhancers, 416 Genuine Help for Erectile Dysfunction, 416

20. Health Devices, 419 Medical-Device Regulation, 420 Vision Products and Services, 421 Hearing Aids, 427 Humidifiers and Vaporizers, 429 Personal Emergency Response Systems, 430 Latex Allergy, 430 Dubious Water Purifier Promotions, 430 Spinal Decompression Machines, 431 Quack Devices, 431 Consumer Strategy, 435

21. Coping with Death, 437 Advance Directives, 438 Viatical Settlements, 441 Donations of Organs and Tissues, 442 Hospice Care, 443 Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, 444 Reasons for an Autopsy, 445 Body Disposition, 445 Coping with Grief, 448 Life-Extension/Anti-Aging Quackery, 448

22. Health-Care Facilities, 453 Accreditation, 454 Outpatient Medical Facilities, 454 Hospitals, 457 Home Care Services, 460


Assisted Living Facilities, 461 Nursing Homes, 461 Continuing Care Retirement Communities, 464


23. Health Insurance, 467 Background, 468 Comprehensive Medical Insurance, 468 Contract Provisions, 471 Types of Plans, 474 Consumer-Directed Expense Accounts, 476 “Concierge Medicine,” 476 Indemnity vs Managed Care, 477 Loss Ratios, 478 Choosing a Plan, 478 Medicare, 480 Medicaid, 481 Other Government-Sponsored Programs, 481 Long-Term–Care Insurance, 481 Dental Insurance, 482 Collection of Insurance Benefits, 483 Disability Insurance, 484

24. Health-Care Financing, 487 Health-Care Costs, 488 Cost-Control Methods, 492 Insurance Fraud and Abuse, 494 National Health Insurance (NHI), 498

25. Consumer Laws, Agencies, and Strategies, 503 U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 504 Federal Trade Commission, 515 U.S. Postal Service, 517 Other Federal Agencies, 517 State and Local Agencies, 518 Physician Regulation, 518 Nongovernmental Organizations, 519 Consumer Action, 522

Appendix: Trustworthy Sources of Information, 525 Federal Government Agencies, 526 Nongovernmental Organizations, 526

Glossary, 529

Index, 541


Consumer HealtH Issues

Consumer health goes far beyond the decision to buy or not to buy. The ever increasing perplexity of the health care delivery system; the prevalence of myths and misconceptions about health, disease, and remediation; the widespread usage of unproven health products and services; and the rapidly escalating costs of health care have ushered in the need to educate individuals in the proficient, judicious and eco- nomical utilization of health information, products, and services. Niles l. KaplaN1

Evidence clearly demonstrates that people are susceptible to error even when choosing among a handful of alternatives to which they can devote their full attention.

Barry schwartz2

Chapter One

Reprinted with special permission from King Features Syndicate

Part One Chapter One

Part One Dynamics of the Health Marketplace2

• To get the most out of our health-care system, consumers must be knowledgeable and appropriately assertive.

• Virtually all legitimate health products and services have bogus counterparts.

• Intelligent consumers maintain an appropriate level of skepticism and recognize their susceptibility to perceptual distortions and cognitive biases.

• Consumer protection agencies are unable to deal with many of the complaints they receive.

• Everyone in a free society has a stake in maintaining high standards in the health marketplace.

Keep tHese poInts In mInd as You studY tHIs CHapter Key Concepts

Consumer health encompasses all aspects of the marketplace related to the purchase of health products and services. It includes such things as buying a bottle of vitamins, a cold remedy, a dentifrice, or exercise equipment and selecting a physician, dentist, insurance policy, book, Web site, or other source of information. Consumer health has both positive and negative as- pects. Positively, it involves the facts and understanding that enable people to make medically and economically sound choices. Negatively, it means avoiding unwise decisions based on deception, misinformation, or other factors. Worksheet 1-1 provides an opportunity to test your knowledge of consumer health issues.

1. Everyone should have a complete physical examination every year or two. 2. Fluoride toothpaste works so well that water fluoridation is no longer important. 3. It is difficult for busy people to eat a balanced diet. 4. People intelligent enough to graduate from college are unlikely to be victimized by quackery. 5. Accreditation of a school indicates that a regulatory agency considers its teachings sound. 6. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 7. Sugar is a major cause of hyperactivity and other childhood behavioral problems. 8. In most states no special training is legally required to offer counseling to the public. 9. Antioxidant supplements have been proven to protect against heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 10. Homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative to many drugs that doctors prescribe. 11. Taking large daily doses of vitamin C can cut the risk of catching colds in half. 12. All people age 21 or older should have their blood cholesterol levels checked once a year. 13. Administering more than one vaccine at a time can overload the immune system. 14. The American Medical Association can revoke the license of a doctor who is practicing improperly. 15. Government reports indicate that the best person to consult for back pain is a chiropractor. 16. Most retailers of dietary supplements and herbal products are well informed about the products they sell. 17. Protein or amino acid supplements help bodybuilders and other athletes improve their performance. 18. The emergency department of a nonprofit hospital is a relatively inexpensive place to get medical care. 19. Natural cancer cures are being suppressed because drug companies don’t want competition. 20. Most health-related books and magazine articles are vetted by experts prior to publication. 21. Government agencies screen many ads for mail-order health products before they are published.

test Your Consumer HealtH I.Q. Worksheet 1–1


Only #6 and #8 are true. Fifteen correct answers suggests that you are fairly well informed. Twenty correct suggests that you are very well informed.

This chapter comments on misleading information; quackery; health frauds; and problems with health-care products, services, costs, and access. It also outlines the strengths and weaknesses of consumer-protection forces, how consumers make health-related decisions, and the characteristics of intelligent consumers.

mIsleadIng InformatIon Health information has become increasingly voluminous and complex. Even well-trained health professionals can have difficulty sorting out what is accurate and signifi- cant from what is not. Table 1-1 lists questions faced by many of today’s consumers.

Chapter One Consumer Health Issues 3

How can the significance of research reports be judged? How trustworthy are the media? How can trustworthy information sources be located?

What are the best ways to keep up-to-date on consumer health issues?

How can quacks and quackery be spotted? What should be done after encountering quackery or health fraud?

Is it sensible to try just about anything for health problems?

How should advertisements for health products and services be analyzed?

How should physicians, dentists, and other health-care specialists be selected?

What should be done about excessive or unreasonable professional fees?

When is it appropriate to obtain a second opinion about recommended surgery?

What periodic health examinations are advisable? How much should they cost?

Where can competent mental help be obtained? What kinds of toothbrushes and dentifrices are best? Can mouthwashes and dentifrices control the develop- ment of plaque on teeth?

When are dental implants appropriate? Do amalgam fillings pose any health hazard? What rights should buyers and sellers have in the health marketplace?

How trustworthy are chiropractors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists?

Is it advisable for people with back pain to see a chiropractor?

What is the best schedule for vaccinations? Is vaccination with Gardasil prudent? When are self-diagnosis and treatment appropriate? How should a hospital, nursing home, or convalescent facility be selected?

What are the pros and cons of using an ambulatory health-care center?

What facilities are available for people who need long- term care?

How can a balanced diet be selected? Does vegetarian eating make sense? When is it appropriate to use vitamin or mineral supplements?

Do antioxidant supplements prevent future diseases? Should “organic foods” or “health foods” be purchased? Are they worth their extra cost?

Can taking vitamin C supplements prevent or cure colds?

Should extra vitamins be taken during pregnancy?

Will taking calcium supplements help prevent osteoporosis?

Are any herbal products worth taking? How trustworthy is the advice given in health-food stores?

Are food additives dangerous? What is the safe way to lose and control weight? Are diet pills helpful or harmful?

Are electric vibrators and massage equipment useful for weight control or body shaping?

Which exercise equipment provides good value for its cost?

Is it a good idea to join a health club or exercise center? What principles should guide the evaluation and man- agement of blood cholesterol levels?

Can magnetic devices enhance athletic performance? Can any food or dietary measures prevent or influence the course of arthritis or cancer?

Does it make sense to undergo detoxification? How do pain relievers compare? Should laxatives be used? By whom? Is it a good idea to use generic drugs? What products are useful for self-care and family care? What is the best strategy for protecting against sun exposure?

Can any product help to grow, restore, or remove hair? Can wrinkles be removed with any product or with plastic surgery?

What forms of birth control are safest and most effective?

Are over-the-counter pregnancy test kits reliable? Are any over-the-counter drug products effective for menstrual cramps?

What can women do about premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Does the patenting of a health device ensure its safety and effectiveness?

How do the different types of contact lenses compare? Who should determine the need for eyeglasses, contact lenses, or a hearing aid?

How safe and effective is surgery to improve vision? Does it make sense to prepay funeral expenses? What services are available for the terminally ill? Which health coverage provides the best protection? How can consumers reduce their health-care costs? How much money should be budgeted for health care? What agencies and organizations help protect consumers?

Which consumer groups are trustworthy? How can one register a complaint about a health prod- uct or service?

Consumer HealtH QuestIons Table 1–1

Part One Dynamics of the Health Marketplace4

The media have tremendous influence. Thousands of radio and television stations broadcast health-related news, commentary, and talk shows. Thousands of maga- zines and newspapers carry health-related items, and thousands of health-related books and pamphlets are published each year. Thousands of books recommend unscientific health practices, as do countless Web sites, blogs, and other computerized information sources. Gunther3 has noted that the mass media have four main functions: to entertain, to inform, to carry adver- tisements, and to make money for their stockholders. In many cases what is transmitted depends on (a) how much it is expected to interest the target audience and (b) how advertisers may feel about it. Larkin,4 for example, has noted that many women’s magazines publish sensational claims and deliberately avoid information that might upset their advertisers. Fast-breaking news should be regarded cautiously. Many reports, though accurate, tell only part of the story.5 Unconfirmed research findings may turn out to

be insignificant. The simplest strategy for keeping up-to- date is to subscribe to trustworthy newsletters and other review sources that place new information in proper perspective (see Chapter 2). Advertising should also be regarded with caution (see Chapter 4). Many advertisers use puffery, “weasel words,” half-truths, imagery, or celebrity endorsements to misrepresent their products. Some marketers use scare tactics to promote their wares. Some attempt to exploit common hopes, fears, and feelings of inadequacy. Cigarette ads have used images of youth, health, vigor, and social acceptance to convey the opposite of what cigarette smoking will do to smokers. Alcohol ads stress fun and sociability and say little about the dangers of excessive drinking. Many ads for cosmetics exaggerate what they can do (see Chapter 18). Food advertising, though not usually deceptive, tends to promote dietary imbalance by emphasizing snack foods that are high in fat and calories. Radio and television infomercials abound with promoters of health misinformation.

Physicians were once able to carry in their little black bags most of the tools needed to diagnose and treat pa- tients. They could store in their own minds the informa- tion necessary for the majority of their work. Experience broadened one’s ability to handle difficult or unusual cases, and patients relied upon their physicians as the pri- mary source of infor mation on both health and disease. The logarithmic increase in biomedical knowledge ... has changed the doctor -patient relationship dramatically. The history and physical examination, once the basis for all medical practice, are now only the first exploratory steps in the process of making a diagnosis and planning a treat ment regimen. The immense proliferation of labora- tory tests, imaging techniques, and diagnostic procedures is stunning. The specialties of medicine have further branched into subspecialties as basic research and clini- cal knowledge have greatly expanded. Medical journals and textbooks have multiplied in number, along with the arrival of new means of information delivery. No individual physician, no matter how capable or experienced, is able to absorb and memorize more than a small portion of this database. This is true despite the fact that convenient access to the information is developing rapidly. One can search the literature rapidly with the National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE service to discover the latest in diag nosis, treatment, and outcome for any disease, common or rare.

Personal Glimpse

With the rapid growth and popularization of the Internet, access to the universe of medical information has been fundamen tally altered. Physicians and the public may draw on the resources of medical discussion groups and refer ence databases with unprecedented ease. But a new dilemma comes with this wonderful ad- vance. For decades, inquisitive patients have turned to health letters and magazines to supplement the informa- tion gained from consultation with their physician. These publications filled a gap in doctor-patient communication. As demands on the physician’s time have multiplied, the explanations offered to patients are too often cursory and incomplete. As the concept of individual responsibility for health has grown, the computerized medical database has broadened the patient’s horizons.. . . It is too early to analyze the virtues and problems of the information revolution. But some are obvious. For example, a World Wide Web query for the keyword “health” found . . . documents, ranging from commercial health products and alternative therapies to issues of sexuality, obesity, aging, and environmental health. . . . Since even physicians can have difficulty sorting out the truth in cyberspace, imagine the problem for the average person browsing the Internet.

Michael Kashgarian, M.D.6

Doctors and Patients in Cyberspace

Chapter One Consumer Health Issues 5

Although many authoritative publications are avail- able, greater numbers of books, magazines, newsletters, and Web sites promote false ideas. Chapter 2 discusses this problem in detail and provides guidance on choosing trustworthy sources.

QuaCKerY and HealtH fraud Quackery is definable as the promotion of a false or unproven health method for profit (see Chapter 3). Fraud involves deceit. Despite tremendous progress in medical science and health education, Americans waste billions of dollars each year on products and services that are unsubstantiated or bogus. Dr. William Jarvis7 calls quackery “a national scandal.” Barrett and Herbert8 have noted:

People generally like to feel that they are in control of their life. Quacks take advantage of this fact by giving their clients things to do—such as taking vitamin pills, preparing special foods, meditating, and the like. The activity may provide a temporary psychological lift, but believing in false things can have serious consequences. The loss may be financial, psychological (when disillusionment sets in), physical (when the method is harmful or the person abandons effective care), or social (diversion from more constructive activities). . . . Quacks portray themselves as innovators and suggest that their critics are rigid, elitist, biased, and closed to new ideas. Actually, they have things backwards. The real issue is whether a method works. Science provides ways to judge and discard unfounded ideas. Medical science progresses as new methods replace less effective ones. Quack methods persist as long as they remain marketable.

Quackery promoters are adept at using slogans and buzzwords. During the 1970s their magic sales word was “natural.” During the 1980s the word “holistic” was popularized. Today’s leading buzzwords are “alterna- tive” and “complementary.” These terms are misleading because methods that do not work are not reasonable alternatives to proven treatment and combining them with standard methods increases cost but not effective- ness. This textbook places the words “alternative” and “complementary” in quotation marks when referring to unsubstantiated methods that lack a scientifically plau- sible rationale. Chapter 8 discusses them in detail. Although most people think of themselves as hard to fool, the majority of Americans are victims of quackery. Contrary to popular beliefs, for example: (a) most people who take vitamin supplements don’t need them; (b) vita- mins do not make people more energetic, more muscular, or less stressed; (c) “organically grown” foods are neither safer nor more nutritious than conventionally produced

foods; and (d) no nonprescription pill can produce rapid or permanent weight loss. Chapters 3, 11, and 12 cover these subjects thoroughly. Victims of quackery usually have one or more of the following vulnerabilities:

lacK of suspicioN: Many people believe that if something is printed or broadcast, it must be true or somehow its publica- tion would not be allowed. People also tend to believe what others tell them about personal experience.

desperatioN: Many people faced with a serious health problem that doctors cannot solve become desperate enough to try almost anything that arouses hope. Many victims of can- cer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS are vulnerable in this way.

alieNatioN: Some people feel deeply antagonistic toward scientific medicine but are attracted to methods that are “natural” or otherwise unconventional. They may also harbor extreme distrust of the medical profession, the food industry, drug companies, and government agencies.

Belief iN magic: Some people are easily taken in by the promise of an easy solution to their problem. Those who buy one fad diet book after another fall into this category.

False Beliefs Can Kill The danger of denying that the human immunodefi- ciency virus (HIV) is the causal agent of AIDS was spotlighted in 2005 by the sudden death of 3-year-old Eliza Jane Scovill of Van Nuys, California, during a bout of AIDS-related pneumonia. Eliza’s mother, Christine Maggiore, was HIV-positive. Medical man- agement of infected pregnant women had reduced the reported incidence of HIV/AIDS in children under age 13 from 952 in 1992 to only 59 in 2003. But Maggiore refused treatment for herself and did nothing to prevent transmission of the virus to her daughter. In fact, dur- ing her pregnancy, she even appeared on the cover of Mothering Magazine with the word AZT in a circle with the slash through it and the headline “HIV+ Moms Say NO to AIDS Drugs.” (AZT is an anti-AIDS drug.) Maggiore ran Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a nonprofit organization which falsely proclaimed that (a) most of the AIDS information the public receives was based on unsubstantiated assumptions, unfounded estimates, and improbable predictions and (b) the symptoms associated with AIDS were treatable with “non-toxic, immune enhancing therapies.” Maggiore herself died in 2008. Although an autopsy was not obtained, knowledgeable observers believe that she died of AIDS-related pneumonia.9

Personal Glimpse

Part One Dynamics of the Health Marketplace6

overcoNfideNce: Despite P.T. Barnum’s advice that one should “never try to beat a man at his own game,” some strong-willed people believe they are better equipped than scientific researchers and other experts to tell whether a method works.

problems wItH produCts In light of scientific and technologic advances, it is not surprising that many people believe that health is pur- chasable. The health marketplace abounds with products of every description to accommodate people’s desires. The problem areas include dietary supplements; herbal and homeopathic products; exercise devices; diet pills and potions; self-help books, recordings, and gadgets; youth and beauty aids; magnets; and some types of over- the-counter drug products. Thousands of “supplement” products are marketed with false claims that they can boost energy, relieve stress, enhance athletic performance, and prevent or treat numerous health problems (see Chapter 11). Ads for “ergogenic aids” feature champion bodybuilders or other athletes without indicating that the real reason for their success is vigorous training. Few supplement

products have any usefulness against disease, and most that do—such as niacin for cholesterol control—should not be taken without competent medical supervision. Although some herbs sold for medicinal purposes are useful, most are not, and some are dangerous (see Chapter 11). Because the U.S. Food and Drug Admin- istration (FDA) does not require standards of identity or dosage for herbal products, consumers may be unable to tell what the products contain or how to use them. Moreover, many of the conditions for which herbs are recommended are not suitable for self-treatment. The vast majority of mail-order health products are fakes (see Chapter 4). The common ones include weight-loss products (mostly diet pills), “hair restor- ers,” “wrinkle removers,” and alleged sex aids. Figure 1-1 illustrates the flamboyant claims found in ads for mail-order diet and “nerve” pills. Many worthless devices are claimed to “synchro- nize” brain waves, relieve pain, remove unwanted fat deposits, improve eyesight, relieve stress, detoxify the body, and ward off disease. Thousands of self- instructional products and programs are marketed with false claims that they can help people lose weight, stop

fIgure 1-1. Ads for dubious mail-order products. The diet pill ad was published in many magazines during the late 1970s. Although no product can “neutralize calories” or fulfill the other promises in this ad, countless “weight-loss” products have been advertised in this way. The “nerve tonic” ad is from a 1996 flyer from a company that specializes in herbal products. Some of its statements about body physiology are true, but most are not related to each other, and the overall message is pseudoscientific gibberish. No ingredients are identified, and no product can remedy the long list of problems listed in the ad. Promotions like these are still common today because regulatory agencies lack the resources to control them, many people are unsuspecting enough to buy them, and many magazine and newspaper publishers value ad revenues more than ethics.

Chapter One Consumer Health Issues 7

smoking, enhance athletic performance, quit drinking, think creatively, raise IQ, make friends, reduce pain, improve vision, restore hearing, cure acne, conquer fears, read faster, speak effectively, handle criticism, relieve depression, enlarge breasts, and do many other things (see Chapter 6). Magnets embedded in clothing, mat- tresses, or other products are falsely claimed to relieve pain, increase blood flow, boost immunity, and provide other health benefits (see Chapter 20). Multilevel companies market a wide variety of health-related products, almost all of which are either in- appropriate or overpriced (see Chapter 4). The products are sold by individual distributors who also attempt to recruit friends, neighbors, relatives, and others to do the same. Several million people are involved in multilevel marketing. Most over-the-counter drug products can be useful in self-care. However, many ads encourage pill-taking for insomnia, lack of energy, constipation, and other problems that may have better solutions. Homeopathic “remedies” are the only category of spurious products legally marketable as drugs. Figure 1-2 illustrates a product that does not contain any molecules of its alleged “active ingredient.” Exercise equipment varies greatly in quality, use- fulness, and price. Before investing in equipment, it is important to determine what it can do and whether it can meet one’s needs or will be too monotonous for regular use (see Chapter 13). Some devices are gimmicks that have little or no effect on fitness.

problems wItH servICes Although health care in America is potentially the world’s best, many practitioners fall short of the ideal, some are completely unqualified, and many consumers have problems with access and affordability. Many physicians prescribe too many drugs, order too many tests, fail to keep up-to-date, or pay insuf- ficient attention to preventive measures. Some do not spend sufficient time interviewing, examining, or advising their patients. Unnecessary surgery is also a significant problem. The percentage of physicians who furnish seriously deficient care is unknown. The Public Citizen Health Research Group (HRG)10 estimates that about 0.8% of physicians commit serious offenses each year, more than double the number actually disciplined. Practitioner discipline is covered in Chapter 25. The mental health marketplace is replete with un- qualified therapists, some of whom have no training whatsoever (see Chapter 6).

Most dentists provide competent care, but consum- ers should be alert to the signs of overselling and dental quackery. Dodes and Schissel11 also warn that many dentists fail to get optimal results because they work too quickly (see Chapter 7). Many people who represent themselves as “nu- tritionists” lack adequate training and engage in un- scientific and quack practices (see Chapter 11). Many commercial weight-loss clinics lack qualified personnel and promise too much in their advertising (see Chapter 12). A wide variety of practitioners engage in “alterna- tive” practices that are not science-based and lack proven value. This includes small percentages of medical and osteopathic physicians; large percentages of chiropractors, naturopaths, massage therapists, and acupuncturists; and others whose activities are described in Chapters 8 and 9.

fIgure 1-2. Homeopathic product “for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills and shivering, body aches and pains.” The box states that its active ingredient is “Anas barbariæ hepatis et cordis extractum HPUS 200C.” This ingredient is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck’s liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. The “200C” designation means that the dilution (1:100) is done 200 times. If a single molecule of the original substance were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200 (1 in 10400). The number 100200 is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe. These numbers don’t make sense, and neither does purchasing the product. Ye, as noted in Chapter 8, t it is legal to market it as a nonprescription drug in the U.S.

Part One Dynamics of the Health Marketplace8

The quality of care in hospitals and nursing homes varies considerably from one to another. The best ones have well-trained nurses who monitor their patients closely. In some facilities, unlicensed personnel provide services for which they are not adequately trained. Pa- tients confronted with a succession of tests and consul- tants may feel frustrated and bewildered if the reasons for them are not explained. Noise may interfere with getting adequate rest. In some nursing homes, physical restraints or sedative drugs are used excessively, patients receive insufficient medical attention, and neglect by the nurs- ing staff results in infections and bedsores. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health-care delivery systems are discussed in Chapter 22.

problems wItH Costs and aCCess Rising costs and lack of adequate insurance coverage have made high-quality health care unavailable to many people in the United States. The cost of health care in the United States has risen much faster than inflation for several decades and is approaching 18% of our gross domestic product. In 2009 close to 50 million Americans ages 19 to 64 had no health insurance12 and many others were underinsured. A recent study13 concluded that ill- ness and medical bills were linked to nearly two thirds of bankruptcies. Inefficiency, waste, and fraud are also serious problems. In 2009, after decades of inaction, the U.S. Congress enacted a hotly contested reform bill in an attempt to improve access and decrease the cost of health care. However, the new law only partially addresses the prob- lems, and powerful vested interests and many confused members of the public oppose its implementation (see Chapters 23 and 24). The funeral industry has a disgraceful record of price-gouging. Many funeral directors fail to disclose costs, add dubious items to their bills, and/or pressure emotionally vulnerable survivors into spending more than necessary (see Chapter 21). Although comparison shopping or joining a memorial society can greatly lessen the cost of death care, many people are not in a position to do these things. Prepaid funeral plans that are badly managed or fraudulent are also a serious problem.

problems wItH rIsK perCeptIon

People are most likely to take steps to take care of themselves when they perceive that doing so will reduce important health and safety hazards. But risk-communi- cation expert Peter M. Sandman, Ph.D.14 has concluded:

If you make a list of environmental risks in order of how many people they kill each year, then list them again in order of how alarming they are to the general public, the two lists will be very different. . . . The risks that kill you are not necessarily the risks that anger and frighten you . . . .

Media reports can greatly influence what people perceive as hazardous. For example, at various times, the media have promoted widespread fears that cellular phones, video display terminals, coffee, electric blan- kets, the artificial sweetener saccharin, commercial hair dyes, and potato chips pose serious risks. The American Council on Science and Health15 has noted that all of these scares were based on “questionable, hypothetical, or nonexistent scientific evidence.” FDA scientist Robert Scheuplein16 has noted that “scientists, managers and regulators who study risks for a living are constantly dismayed because the public seems to worry about the wrong risks.” Chapter 14 discusses health and safety risks and appropriate consumer responses to these risks.

tHe need for Consumer proteCtIon The caveat emptor doctrine (“let the buyer beware”), which originated in the Middle Ages, was based on the assumption that buyers and sellers had equal bargain- ing positions. This was reasonable because (a) goods (such as fresh vegetables and cloth) could be examined thoroughly for defects and (b) people bargained almost entirely with neighbors who risked severe social reper- cussions if they acted dishonestly. However, as trade expanded and technology advanced, it became apparent that individual caution is not enough. Even highly intelli- gent individuals may go astray in situations in which they lack expert knowledge or are emotionally vulnerable.

Protective Forces Because the caveat emptor philosophy is inadequate to protect health consumers, many of today’s laws are based on the concept of caveat vendor (let the seller beware), but gaps in consumer protection remain. Better enforce- ment of existing laws is also needed. The FDA is concerned about the safety, effective- ness, and marketing of foods, drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and other health-related products. The FDA operates under powerful laws but lacks sufficient re- sources to handle the enormous number of violations it encounters. In addition, a 1994 law generated by the health-food industry and its allies has decreased the agency’s ability to regulate claims for dietary supple- ments and herbs (see Chapters 11 and 25).

Chapter One Consumer Health Issues 9

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has primary jurisdiction over most types of advertising. It administers a powerful law and has been enforcing it vigorously dur- ing the past decade. But, like the FDA, it can only act against a small percentage of the problems it encounters. State attorneys general enforce several types of consumer-protection laws. In most states, however, few health-related cases are pursued. State laws for licensing health professionals set minimum requirements for training and knowledge but do not specify that practices must be science-based. Even physicians and dentists are not required by law to practice according to scientific principles, although they generally do so. The quality of state regulation varies from state to state and from board to board. Many licens- ing boards lack the resources to investigate all of the complaints they receive. Those that oversee chiroprac- tors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and massage therapists do very little to protect consumers against unscientific practices.

Accreditation agencies set standards for educa- tion and quality of care. Those serving schools for the science-based professions generally to do an excellent job but have failed to protect students from an invasion of “complementary and alternative medicine” teachings. The agencies that oversee chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture, and massage therapy schools make little or no effort to prevent unscientific teachings (see Chapters 8 and 9). Accreditation of hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care facilities generally increases the quality of their care, but it also adds to the cost of administering that care. Hospitals oversee the activities of their staffs (see Chapter 22). Those that do so effectively provide a very valuable consumer-protection service to their communities. Insurance companies and other third-party pay- ers can refuse to cover services that are excessive or unsubstantiated. However, state legislatures and courts sometimes force them to pay for inappropriate treatment.

analYsIs of Consumer-proteCtIon forCes Table 1–2


School accreditation agencies

State licensing boards

Insurance companies

Medicare and Medicaid Managed care


Professional societies Specialty boards

Advisory panels


Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Federal Trade Commis- sion (FTC)

U.S. Postal Service State attorneys general Voluntary and consumer


Potential Role

Improve the quality of training State laws set standards for entry into profession. Boards can act in cases of fraud, incompetence, or other unprofessional behavior

Gatekeeper function; can refuse to pay for unsubstantiated treatment

Can eject errant practitioners Can exclude or eject practitioners who don’t meet their criteria or who engage in unprofessional conduct

Set ethical standards for members Set high performance standards and ensure them by rigid examinations

Issue guidelines based on professional consensus

Credentialing and peer-review processes can restrict unqualified practitioners

Regulates food, drugs, and cosmetics; can act against drugs and devices that are not proven safe and effective

Can act against false advertising

Can stop frauds involving use of the mail Can stop fraudulent activities Can educate the public and campaign for

stronger laws

Limiting Factors

Teachings are not required to be science-based

Licensure does not ensure that a profession practices scientifically. Board resources are limited; courts may delay or overrule board actions; many dubious practitioners are unlicensed

Laws or court actions may force companies to pay for unsubstantiated procedures

Fraud can be difficult to detect Selection criteria may be based on economic factors rather than quality of care; laws and court actions can force managed-care plans to accept practitioners they don’t want

Have no legal power; cannot influence nonmembers Unrecognized boards may have low standards or be bogus

Have no legal power; some guidelines conflict with others

Practitioners not on hospital staff are unaffected; some hospitals have lax standards

Limited resources, especially if court action is required; current laws interfere with regulation of vitamins, herbs, and homeopathic products

Very aggressive but has limited resources and tends to move slowly

No recent regulation of mail-order health products Can pursue only a small percentage of complaints Many groups are underfunded; some promote


Part One Dynamics of the Health Marketplace10

practitioners and the health-food industry want the laws weakened (see Chapters 8, 11, and 25). Table 1-2 summarizes the functions and limitations of the protective forces just discussed.

IntellIgent Consumer beHavIor Intelligent health consumers have the following characteristics: 1. They understand the logic of science and why scientific testing is needed to test and to determine which theories and practices are valid. Chapter 2 covers this in detail. They also understand and guard against their own vulnerabilities and cognitive biases (see Personal Glimpse Box on page 12). 2. They seek reliable sources of information. They are appropriately skeptical about advertising claims, statements made by talk-show guests, and “break- throughs” reported in the news media. New information, even when accurate, may be difficult to place in perspec- tive without expert guidance. Most physicians, dentists, allied health professionals, health educators, government

Professional societies set standards for their mem- bers, but they lack the force of law and have little or no influence on nonmembers. Some societies can help consumers settle disputes over billing and ethical issues. Recognized specialty boards set standards (through examinations) to identify practitioners who have achieved a high level of professional competence. Some “specialty boards” lack professional recognition, and some are bogus (see Chapter 5). Many health-related agencies and organizations issue voluntary guidelines for science-based practices. The most comprehensive set is maintained by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Its reports, as discussed in Chapter 5, examine the best current evidence for benefits and harms of various screening tests and preven- tive measures and make recommendations based on the benefit/harm ratio. Voluntary and consumer groups serve as watchdogs, information sources, and legislative advocates. Some deal with many health-related issues; others deal with few. Some advocate strengthening consumer-protection laws. Groups that represent the interests of “alternative”

Cognitive bias is a general term for distortions of thinking that are difficult to eliminate and can lead to inaccurate judgment and faulty conclusions. Many types of cogni- tive bias influence choices related to health care. Some common ones are listed below. How vulnerable do you think you are to each type?

availaBility cascade: a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (“repeat something enough and it will become true”).

BaNdwagoN effect: the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.

halo effect: the tendency for a person’s positive or negative traits to “spill over” from one area of their personality to another in others’ perceptions of them. We are inclined to accept statements by people we like.

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