Consumer Health Digest #05-32

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 9, 2005


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.


"Natural Cures" book achieves undeserved position on best-seller lists. Kevin Trudeau's Natural Cures: "They" Don't Want You to Know About has been on the New York Times list of hardcover advice books for six weeks and currently is #1. Sales have been driven by frequently aired infomercials in which Trudeau claims that the drug industry, the FDA, the FTC, and other organizations and industries are engaged in an "intricate conspiracy" to prevent Americans from learning about effective "natural" treatments he describes in his book.

Trudeau is the undisputed king of infomercial fraud. In 2004, after having been repeatedly charged with false advertising of products, Trudeau signed a consent agreement barring him from future promotion of all products except books and newsletters. [Kevin Trudeau banned from infomercials: Trudeau settles claims in connection with Coral Calcium Supreme and Biotape. FTC news release, Sept 7, 2004] A recent Associated Press article noted that 378 individuals and companies are under a cease-and-desist order or have been named as defendants in FTC law-enforcement actions related to infomercials, primarily over unsubstantiated claims on the products' performance. Since 1989, the actions have led to judgments of more than $711 million in consumer compensation and civil penalties [Choi C. Consumers warned on infomercial. Newsday, Aug , 2005], but Trudeau's case is the only one in which the FTC imposed such a sweeping ban. His "Natural Cures" book is filled with false statements and worthless advice, but Trudeau is free to market it as long as he does not promote the sale of specific dietary supplements or other products in which he has a financial interest.

On August 5, the New York State Consumer Protection (CPB) Board warned:

During the early 1990s, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Trudeau served nearly two years in prison. In 1990, he pled guilty to larceny in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, state court in connection with $80,000 in worthless checks he had deposited at a bank. The sentencing memorandum said that he had posed as a doctor to increase his credibility with bank officials. In 1991, he pled guilty to credit-card fraud in Boston federal district court. Among his misdeeds in the federal case, he misappropriated for his own use the credit-card numbers of customers of the memory-improvement courses that he offered at the time. [Emshwiller JR. Nutrition for Life's top recruiter has a criminal past despite convictions, Trudeau gets new distributors to fork out the cash. The Wall Street Journal, Jan 19, 1996] Salon.com has published a comprehensive article about Trudeau's activities and background. [Dreyer C. What Kevin Trudeau doesn't want you to know. Salon.com, July 26, 2005]


Major study finds no cardiac benefit from remote prayer, mental imagery, or "healing touch." A controlled clinical trial has found no evidence that music, imagery, and touch (MIT) therapy or remote prayer can improve the clinical outcome of patients who undergo cardiac catheterization or percutaneous coronary intervention (a treatment in which blockage of a coronary artery is removed during catheterization). The study, which was conducted in nine centers in the United States, assigned 748 patients into four approximately equal groups. One group received standard care only, one received MIT only, one received prayer only, and one received both MIT and prayer. The MIT therapy involved a 40-minute bedside session in which the patient was taught relaxed abdominal breathing, chose a beautiful, peaceful place to think about, and selected a type of music to listen to with headphones during the operative procedure. The practitioner also applied 21 "healing touch" hand positions for 45 seconds each. During the first 2 years of the study, the name, age, and illness of each patient assigned to prayer therapy were provided to 12 established prayer groups who prayed for them for 5 days to 30 days. In the final year of enrollment, 12 more prayer groups were added who were not given the identities of the patients. When the results were tabulated, no differences were found among the groups in major adverse cardiovascular events during the hospitalization or in readmission or death rates within the next 6 months. The researchers concluded that the tested treatments did not significantly improve clinical outcome. [Krukoff MW and others. Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomised study. Lancet 366:211-217, 2005]


Eleventh colloidal silver-related argyria case surfaces. A 58-year-old man who treated a presumed kidney infection with a home-brewed colloidal solution over a 4-day period developed permanent blue-gray discoloration of his face, trunk, limbs, and eyes four weeks later. [Brandt D. Argyria secondary to ingestion of homemade silver solution. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 53:S105-107, 2005] During the past ten years, at least ten other cases following colloidal silver use have been reported. [Barrett S. Colloidal silver: Risk without benefit. Quackwatch, Aug 10, 2005]


Cigarette promotion expense hits record high in 2003. The FTC’s annual report on cigarette sales and advertising shows that in 2003, the major cigarette manufacturers spent $15.15 billion on advertising and promotional expenditures, an increase of $2.68 billion (21.5%) from 2002 and the most ever reported to the Commission. [Federal Trade Commission issues cigarette report for 2003. FTC news release, Aug 9, 2005]


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This page was posted on August 9, 2005.