Consumer Health Digest #07-36

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 18, 2007


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.


"MCS" guru charged with unprofessional conduct. William J. Rea, M.D., who operates the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, Texas, is facing disciplinary action that could lead to revocation of his medical license. The Medical Board of Texas has charged him with (a) using pseudoscientific test methods, (b) failing to make accurate diagnoses, (c) providing "nonsensical" treatments, (d) failing to properly inform patients that his approach is unproven; (e) practicing in areas for which he has not been trained; and (f) representing himself certified by a board that is not recognized by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Rea is best known for his promotion of the concept of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a diagnosis not recognized by the scientific community. Quackwatch has a detailed discussion of "MCS."


Incorrigible infomercial marketer charged again. The FTC has filed suit against Kevin Trudeau for allegedly violating a court order by misrepresenting the contents of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” In several infomercials, Trudeau claims that the plan outlined in the book is easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want. However, the book actually describes a complex plan that requires severe dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers cannot easily get, and lifelong dietary restrictions. In a 2004 order settling FTC charges that he had falsely claimed that his calcium product could cure cancer and other serious diseases, Trudeau was banned from using infomercials to sell any product, service, or program except for books and and other publications. Although he remained free to publish his opinions, the order specified that he must not misrepresent what is in the publications. The FTC is now charging that he violated that narrow exemption. [FTC: Marketer Kevin Trudeau violated prior court order: Charges him with misrepresenting contents of book. FTC news release, Sept 14, 2007] The FTC's court filings have been posted to the FTC news release on Casewatch.


Restaurant Association thwarts NYC menu labeling rule. The New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) has obtained a summary judgment in a lawsuit to prevent New York City from regulating information on restaurant menus. The regulation would have required restaurants that voluntarily provide the number of calories in their standardized menus to display this information prominently in menu boards and menus. Three amici briefs were submitted on behalf of many academicians, legislators, voluntary and professional organizations, and local government bodies who believe that such information is important in the war against obesity. The rule would have affected only about 10% of the city's restaurants. However, the judge ruled that although the city has the power to mandate nutrition labeling by restaurants, the chosen method was preempted by voluntary claim provisions of the federal Nutritional Labeling and Education Act of 1990. [Memorandum opinion and order. New York State Restaurant Association vs New York City Board of Health, et al. U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case No. 07-Civ5710, filed Sept 11, 2007]


Hospital Santa Monica closed again. For the second time in two years, in response to negative publicity, the Mexican Government has ordered Hospital Santa Monica to shut down. The clinic's founder and presumed director, Kurt W. Donsbach, is an unlicensed chiropractor with a long history of illegal activity. In 2005, in response to massive publicity about the death there of Coretta Scott King (widow of former civil rights leader Martin Luther King), the Mexican Government ordered Hospital Santa Monica to shut down. However, it obtained a health department certificate as "Centro de Atención Integral" and continued business as usual. Donsbach's lawyer claims that Donsbach is a "nutritional consultant" and was not treating patients. However, until last week, the clinic's Web site stated that all therapies at the clinic were “selected and are coordinated by Dr. Donsbach.” [Crabtree P, Cearley A. Baja clinic known for unorthodox care closed. San Diego Tribune, Sept 13, 2007]


Top herbal reference updated. Pharmaceutical Press has published the third edition of Herbal Medicines. The 720-page guide is intended primarily for health professionals, but its main points are understandable by laypersons. Its 152 monographs cover identifying features, chemical constituents, food use, herbal use, dosage, pharmacological action, adverse effects, contraindications, warnings, references, and comments that reflect the authors' analysis and advice. Other portions of the book deal with regulatory controls (primarily in the United Kingdom and Europe), quality issues, and safety. The list prices are US$150 for the book, US$150 for the CD-ROM, and US$199.95 for the book/CD package. Prepaid orders accompanied by the order form on Quackwatch receive a 5% discount and have no additional charge for postage.


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This page was posted on September 19, 2007.