Consumer Health Digest #02-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 5, 2002


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


FTC proposes "Do not call" registry. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission would like to create a national "Do Not Call" registry that would enable consumers to eliminate most telemarketing calls by making one call to the FTC. [FTC proposes national "Do not call" registry. FTC news release, Jan 22, 2002] The proposal, which would amend the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, will enhance the Rule's ability to prevent deceptive telemarketing and enable consumers to exert greater control over when and whether to receive telemarketing calls in their homes. The proposal would make it illegal for telemarketers to call consumers who register their phone number with the FTC. Public comments can be submitted until March 29, 2002. Instructions for submitting written or e-mail comments are at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/donotcall/form.htm.


New Web site debunks health scares. The American Council on Science and Health has launched HealthFractsandFears.org, which intends to apply good science to public health controversies. The initial offerings include an editorial blasting the shoddy research sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and its predecessor agencies. The editorial states:

Supporters of alt-med point to NCCAM's existence as vindication of their beliefs, dismiss its findings when they fail to support alt-med beliefs, claim to want more testing, and, whenever tests fail to confirm their claims, deny that alt-med lends itself to testing. Some go so far as to question the very idea of clinical trials, saying that each individual has an immune system so unique that the failure of an alt-med technique to have a measurable effect on a million patients does not prove that the technique will be ineffective for the million-and-first patient. That's true, though it's not clear that taxpayer money should be spent studying techniques with no proven (or even provable) benefits aside from subjective mood changes that could as easily have been caused by puppetry, a phone call from an old friend, or participation in a magic act. . . .

If NCCAM's work continues for yet another decade, it is likely it will have produced no useful medical treatments, changed the beliefs of almost no members of the public, and spent well over a billion dollars at its current annual budget alone. . . . Private supporters of alt-med are free to fund studies, publish them in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals, and let other scientists take a crack at reproducing the results-or showing where the initial study went wrong. The rest of us needn't foot the bill. [Seavey T. Gov't pays $100m per year for alternative medicine studies, Feb 1, 2002]


Trial set for questionable cancer treatment marketer. James Gary Davidson, who operated a Mexican clinic for treating cancer patients with a dubious magnetic device, is scheduled to go to trial on February 25th. In June 2000, he and five others were charged with criminally defrauding investors as well as clinic patients. The indictment states that in 1995 and 1996, Davidson pronounced several patients cured or cancer-free after receiving treatment at his clinic. However, the prosecuting attorney has reported that all are dead. For additional information see Quackwatch.


Cell Tech sued for false advertising. Teachers for Truth in Advertising, a small private association of teachers concerned about false advertising in America, has filed a consumer-protection suit against Cell Tech Products, Inc., Klamath Falls, Oregon. The lawsuit charges that the company has violated California's Business and Professions Code by using misleading scare tactics and exaggerating the nutritional and health value of Super Blue Green Algae and other products. The suit seeks to prohibit the alleged misrepresentations and require the company to issue refunds to California consumers who purchased its alga products during the previous four years. The text of the suit has been posted to MLM Watch.


Chiropractors oppose direct access under Medicare to physical therapists. The American Chiropractic Association's Board of Governors has passed a motion to oppose the Patient Access to Physical Therapists Act of 2001 (H.R. 3363), which would provide Medicare beneficiaries with direct access to physical therapists. The bill, which Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL) introduced last November on behalf of the American Physical Therapy Association, would "authorize physical therapists to diagnose, evaluate, and treat Medicare beneficiaries without a requirement for a physician referral," which would enable them to directly compete with chiropractors.


Streamline International officer settles FTC charges. Robert Waitkus, a Streamline International officer who also did business as WorldWide Opportunities Network, has settled FTC charges that he engaged in a pyramid scheme and misrepresented the value of dietary supplement products. The consent agreement requires him to pay a $30,000 penalty and to refrain from misrepresenting the safety or efficacy of any dietary supplement. In addition, if earnings claims are made in any future multilevel marketing enterprise in which he participates, he must disclose the number and percentage of current program participants who have made a profit and the average and median amount of money made by each current program participant. [Pyramid promoters settles FTC charges. FTC news release, Jan 31, 2002]


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This page was posted on February 5, 2002.