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Newsletter
Health Freedom Watch
January 2005

Contents:


NIH and FDA Conference to Examine Dietary Supplements and Need for Clinical Guidelines

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) announced (on January 10!) that it will hold a conference January 13 and 14, 2005 to evaluate the risks of interactions between dietary supplements and prescription blood-thinning medications. The NHLBI notes that up to 52 percent of the population reports using dietary supplements and that four million Americans use blood-thinning medications.

Experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will convene with academic, industry representatives, and advocacy groups to:

  • assess current knowledge,
  • identify strategies for clinical guidelines, and
  • determine opportunities for further research.

    Advocacy groups represented at the conference will include the:

  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Herbal Products Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Society of Clinical Nutrition
  • American Society of Health System Pharmacists
  • American Society of Hematology
  • National Consumers League
  • Platelet Disorder Support Association

    The agenda and other details about the conference are available online: (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/meetings/coagulation/index.htm).

    Reporters can register at the conference or in advance by contacting the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236 or email: (nhlbi_news@nhlbi.nih.gov).

    Following the conference a bibliography will be available online: (http://ods.od.nih.gov).

    Source: NHLBI press release (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jan2005/nhlbi-10.htm).

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    IMPORTANT REMINDER: Submit Your Comments on the Forthcoming National Electronic Medical-Records Network by JANUARY 18, 2005!

    Do you want your health information (including mental-health records and genetic data) linked to a national electronic medical-records network and widely used without your knowledge or permission? For more information and details on where to submit your comments, click here: http://www.forhealthfreedom.org/Publications/Privacy/RecordsNetwork.html.

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    Medicare Officials Might Consider Hiring Toads

    An ordinary toad successfully provided more accurate responses to Medicare policy questions than Medicare customer service representatives (CSRs), according to a new study by L.R. Huntoon, a practicing neurologist and editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

  • A 2004 Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office) study reveals that 96 percent of the time, CSRs gave the wrong answer to physicians questioning the appropriate way to bill Medicare.

  • In comparison, Huntoon asked a toad a series of rephrased GAO Medicare policy questions; by jumping right for "yes" and left for "no," the toad crushed the competition, answering correctly 50 percent of the time.

  • In the GAO's 2004 study, the CSRs were aware of their evaluations and the questions were taken directly from the carrier's own website, yet they still managed to lose to the toad 46 percent of the time.

    While Huntoon's personal experiment is humorous, it barely begins to demonstrate the severe incompetence and inefficiency of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):

  • In 2003, Medicare received a total of 21 million "provider" inquiries; of those 21 million, Medicare's error rate would translate to 20,160,000 wrong answers.

  • GAO estimates that 500,000 of the 21 million were policy-oriented; overall, between 480,000 and 20,160,000 Medicare claims are incorrectly denied due to the incorrect information provided by Medicare representatives.

    CSRs are not held accountable for giving accurate information, says Huntoon. The 2004 GAO study reasserted, "[W]e reported in 2002 that CMS's definition of what constitutes accuracy is neither clear nor specific. CMS has not revised the definition."

    With no accurate definition of accurate, it appears that CMS considers accuracy and competence to be irrelevant, says Huntoon.

    Source: National Center for Policy Analysis Daily Policy Digest, January 10, 2005, (http://www.ncpa.org). Reprinted with permission.

    Background Information: Lawrence R. Huntoon, "Medicare: Incompetence-Based Bureaucracy," Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Volume 9, Number 4, Winter 2004; U.S. General Accounting Office, "Medicare: Communications with Physicians can be Improved," February 27, 2002; and U.S. Government Accountability Office, "Medicare: Call Centers Need to Improve Responses to Policy-Oriented Questions from Providers," July 2004.

    Links of interest:

    Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons article: (http://www.jpands.org/vol9no4/huntoon.pdf).

    GAO 2004 study: (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04669.pdf).

    GAO 2002 study: (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02249.pdf).

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    So-Called "Evidence-Based Medicine" is Managed Care Masquerading as Science

    Evidenced-based medicine (EBM) is challenged in a new report by Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC).

    The extensively documented report, titled "How Technocrats are Taking Over the Practice of Medicine: A Wake-up Call to the American People," shines a bright light on the terms "evidence-based medicine" and "best practices," including its purposes and the concerns of critics.

    "The public needs to understand that evidence-based medicine is an attack on the patient-doctor relationship. EBM is not individualized care. It is group-think medicine," says Twila Brase, president of CCHC and author of the report.

    Noting the recent and growing inclusion of these terms in state and federal law, Ms. Brase told a press briefing, "If evidence-based medicine is not understood for what it is, managed care will use it to solidify control over medical decisions and the practice of medicine. Managed care will become the law of the land."

    CCHC stresses the following five concerns with EBM:

    1) The term cannot be taken at face value. EBM is managed care. Same game, different name.

    2) Science, the purported foundation of EBM, is not incontestable. In research there are subjective choices all along the road to creating the "evidence" in EBM.

    3) Practice guidelines used to implement EBM have significant problems. These include being out-of-date, biased, in conflict with one another, and single-disease focused; and the lack of individualization.

    4) Under EBM, practice guidelines are becoming treatment mandates. Financial consequences are increasingly a possibility for doctors who do not follow guidelines issued by health plans or government. Computer systems to track and report physician adherence are being established.

    5) Patient harm can result from EBM, and its treatment mandates. Practice guidelines are based on data collected from the medical records of many patients. They do not focus on the care or the unique circumstances and physiologies of individuals. And, as has been reported in England, the guidelines can be used to implement health-care rationing.

    "Control over medical decisions is being shifted from doctors to data crunchers; from professionals at the bedside to bureaucrats in big offices," says Ms. Brase.

    "The public should not be fooled by the nifty-sounding names. Evidence-based medicine is managed care masquerading as science."

    The CCHC report is available online: http://www.cchconline.org/pdfreport/

    Source: CCHC press release http://www.cchconline.org/pr/pr121304.php

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    What the FDA Won't Tell You about the VeriChip

    CBN News reported recently that "a little electronic capsule, smaller than a dime, could be one of the biggest technological advances in how we share and store private medical records." But the report notes that it may also be one of the most controversial.

    "Known as the VeriChip, it is a microchip that is implanted under a person's skin, and then scanned with a special reader device to reveal important medical data about that person. Applied Digital, the Florida-based company that makes the VeriChip, hopes the implant will revolutionize how doctors obtain medical information, particularly in emergency situations. Theoretically, if a person can't speak, medics could scan that person and quickly be linked to a database that would provide crucial information like the patient's identity, blood type and drug allergies."

    The news report states, "The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the VeriChip implant for medical use in humans in October [2004], a huge victory for Applied Digital..But in a letter obtained by CBN News from the FDA to the VeriChip makers, the microchip is not completely safe. In fact, the letter lists a whole host of health risks associated with the device, including 'adverse tissue reaction,' 'electrical hazards' and 'MRI incompatibility.'"

    Consumer-privacy advocate Katherine Albrecht reveals the potential dangers of the VeriChip and other radio-frequency identification methods on her website: (www.spychips.com).

    Source: "Brave New World: What the FDA Won't Tell You about the VeriChip" (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/news/041210a.asp).

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    Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2005 Institute for Health Freedom.