Consumer Health Digest #02-31

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 30, 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.


Contempt actions filed against Enforma marketers. The Federal Trade Commission has filed another civil contempt action against Enforma Natural Products, Inc., and its president, Andrew Grey, for continuing to violate the terms of a May 2000 final consent order prohibiting unsubstantiated claims for weight loss products. In addition, the FTC has filed civil contempt charges against Twenty-Four Seven, LLC, an entity formed by Enforma and Grey, and Donna DiFerdinando, Enforma's Director of Marketing. The FTC alleges that Enforma, Grey, Twenty-Four Seven, and DiFerdinando are making false claims for two new weight loss products—"Chitozyme" and "Acceleron." In January 2002, the FTC filed an application for civil contempt against Enforma, Grey, and Michael Ehrman, another Enforma executive, for continuing to make misleading statements for "Fat Trapper Plus" and "Exercise In A Bottle." The court has not yet ruled on the January contempt application. [FTC files second civil contempt action against Enforma defendants: New contempt charges filed against Enforma employee and an additional company. FTC news release, July 25, 2002]


Quackwatch warns against personal injury mills. Personal injury mills are conspiracies to provide unnecessary services in order to create large insurance claims. This enables providers to profit and attorneys who represent injured clients to get higher settlements (and therefore higher fees for cases taken on a contingency basis). Large mills can involve hundreds of participants and steal many millions of dollars, causing higher insurance premiums and higher taxes. In many cases, insurance claimants are advised that they can make money by doing what is recommended and that failure to participate could adversely affect their legal case. However, false reports of medical diagnoses or loss of functionality can cause trouble for patients who later seek employment, apply for insurance, or actually become disabled and apply for disability; and knowledgeable participants can be prosecuted for fraud. Quackwatch has identified eleven signs that may indicate that a provider is part of a mill.


IOM to study six "dietary supplement" ingredients. The Institute of Medicine has proposed a framework for studying the safety of nutrients, herbs, and hormones marketed as "dietary supplements" and has announced that it will study six ingredients about which safety concerns have been raised: chaparral, chromium picolinate, glucosamine, melatonin, saw palmetto, and shark cartilage. The IOM monograph, Proposed Framework for Evaluating the Safety of Dietary Supplements for Comment, can be read online or purchased in book form.


BioPulse snuffed by FTC. BioPulse International, Inc., BioPulse, Inc., and their principals (Jonathan Neville and Loran Swenson) have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of insulin-induced hypoglycemic sleep therapy and acoustic lightwave therapy. The defendants, who operated a Tijuana clinic, had falsely claimed that these treatments were effective against cancer and other serious diseases. [Company touting unproven cancer treatment agrees to settle FTC charges FTC news release, July 24, 2002] The Tijuana clinic was closed earlier this year. Biopulse stock, which peaked at $12 per share in December 2000, now costs about a penny per share. Quackwatch has further information.


Desiccated thyroid prescriber's license suspended. The College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia has suspended the license of David Derry, M.D., Ph.D., of Victoria, who treats patients with desiccated thyroid, a drug abandoned by the scientific medical community in the 1970s. Derry is battling the ruling in court.


Aetna publishes Lyme disease coverage policy. Aetna has issued detailed guidelines that sort out proven from unproven diagnostic approaches to Lyme disease. Among other things, it will not pay for intravenous antibiotic use to treat nonspecific subjective symptoms such chronic fatigue syndrome, difficulty in concentrating, musculoskeletal pain , and headache. The policy document also notes: "No scientifically controlled study in the medical literature to date has demonstrated added efficacy from extending therapy longer than 4-6 weeks." [Aetna Coverage Policy Bulletin 0215: Lyme Disease]


Antiabortionist ordered to stop cybersquatting. A federal judge in Minneapolis has issued a temporary injunction ordering William S. Purdy Sr. to stop using domain names similar to those trademarked by five well known companies to divert traffic to his antiabortion site. [Cybersquatter must shut anti-abortion sites: Creator claims issue is about free speech. CNN.com, July 24, 2002.] By registering names such as MyCoca-Cola.com, MyMcDonalds.com, MyPepsi.org, and washingtonpostsays.com, Purdy was able to divert traffic to abortionismurder.org, where he displays graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. Purdy states that he has targeted newspapers that he believes have a pro-choice agenda and food companies that he believes should take a stance against abortion. [Purdy WS. E-mail message, July 16, 2002]


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This page was posted on July 30, 2002.