The BMJ Today: Unrepentant hucksters, bedtime stories and tackling mental health

Recent research from the US shows that medical conspiracy theories are rife there. Almost half of north Americans believe in some health conspiracy theory or other: more than a third think the FDA is deliberately suppressing information about natural cures for cancer to satisfy the drug companies, while one in five believe that corporations are suppressing the truth about the dangers of mobile phones and vaccinations.

In the light of this, it is pleasing to see a fraudster has been sent to jail for 10 years for promoting just such ideas. Today, the BMJ news section has a story about the jailing of medical fraudster Kevin Trudeau, the author of Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. In 2004 Trudeau was ordered to pay $2million and desist from medical claims for such products as Japanese Coral Calcium and Biotape. For ignoring this and other court orders, a Chicago judge has now sent him to prison for 10 years, calling him a “an unrepentant, untiring and uncontrollable huckster who has defrauded the unsuspecting for 30 years.” Impressive.

Elsewhere Harry Burns, the outgoing Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, is interviewed by Bryan Christie for the features section. He believes ill health in Scotland is linked to the fact that too few people feel that they have a stake in the future. His approach has been concentrate on small gains, one of which was to encourage parents to read bedtime stories to their children and nurseries to record how many children are benefitting. “Bedtime reading is an evidence based intervention that will produce small benefits,” he said.

And finally, the effects of mental disorders on employment are discussed in an editorial. People with common mental disorders are only half as likely to have jobs as people without psychiatric disorders. The lead author, Max Henderson, from the Institute of Psychiatry, at King’s College London, calls for the implementation of one of recommendations of the Black Report of 2008. Carol Black proposed the creation of a centre for work and health to drive forward the research agenda. “Its time has now come,” the editorial says.

Annabel Ferriman is news editor, BMJ.