'Quack busters' crack down on bogus therapies
April 7, 1997
Web posted at: 11:49 p.m. EDT (0349 GMT)
From Correspondent Jennifer Auther
LOMA LINDA, California (CNN) -- William Jarvis is a quack buster -- and proud of it.
Those who thought that wacky medical practices and bogus therapies were a thing of the past are sadly mistaken, says Jarvis of the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Such useless contraptions as the "horse collar," which people wore for various ills, and the master violet ray, a German electrical device that allegedly killed a toddler in Canada, are both available on the market today, says Jarvis.
Quackery 1990s-style involves alternative medicine, a $25 billion industry in the United States alone, according to Jarvis. And it's becoming more prevalent as patients increasingly turn to substitute treatments.
"Today we have 260 million guinea pigs for the dietary supplement industry," said Jarvis, who holds a Ph.D. at Loma Linda University. Dietary supplements promise a range of unproved health benefits, from improved immunity to lower body fat.
"They're selling hormones over the counter now, self-prescribed, self-dosed, no medical monitoring," Jarvis said.
Even some of the vendors of these dubious therapies don't disagree.
"We get people who are involved in different degrees of researching [dietary supplements] before taking it. It's touted to increase hormone production, but the main thing is that we get a lot people who throw caution to the wind," said Daniel Bang, who owns "Vita Life," a store in Beverly Hills that sells dietary supplements.
That worries Dr. John Renner of Kansas City, Missouri, who specializes in AIDS quackery.
"I've bought a bottle of T cells, which is pretty silly," he said. T cells help fight immunities and are attacked by the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
"We have physicians that take a small amount of blood out of a body, heat it and put it back and claim that the blood cells are now sterilized or purified. We have 'Kombusha,' one of the stronger ones. It's a fungus, yeast growth."
Both Renner and Jarvis hold little regard for Kombushu as a legitimate treatment.
The key to busting quack therapies, they say, is a healthy dose of skepticism and a willingness to decipher rumor from proof.
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