Consumer Health Digest #08-10

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 4, 2008


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.


Eniva's "PDR" hype debunked. MLM Watch has criticized Eniva Corporation, a multilevel marketing company, for exaggerating the significance of its product listing in the PDR for Nonprescription Drugs, Dietary Supplements, and Herbs. Eniva's ads state that the PDR is highly respected by doctors and that the company is "honored" that its products are listed. The listed product, VIBE®, is an undistinguished, high-priced, multivitamin/multimineral to which have been added proprietary blends containing 41 ingredients that include plant extracts, amino acids, and other substances. PDR entries are written by the product manufacturers. The only requirements for listings are payment of a fee plus assurance that a product's label complies with FDA rules. In other words, the entries are paid ads. [Barrett S. Advertising hype for Eniva's VIBE. MLM Watch, March 5, 2008]


Blatant infomercial marketers agree to stringent restrictions. Paris DeAguero, Laura DeAguero, and Dieter Ammann have agreed settle FTC charges that they falsely claimed that their 7-Day Miracle Cleanse program would cure cancer and other serious diseases. The settlement bans them from involvement in future infomercials for any product, service, or program, except for informational publications, and from advertising health-related products in the future in any medium. [Marketers of 7-Day Miracle Cleanse Program banned from infomercials. FTC news release, Feb 27, 2008] Paris DeAguero, appeared as “the Health Man” in nationally televised infomercials, claiming that his program cured him within weeks of skin and breast cancer without the need for surgery or other treatments. Advertising also claimed that the program also prevented, treated, and/or cured AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis, and that it safely caused rapid and substantial weight loss. The defendants also claimed that a component of their program, Parasine 2, was “clinically proven” to eliminate parasites and worms, including tapeworms. The settlement required Ammann to pay $70,000. Both orders contain a judgment of $14,455,123, which is suspended based on the defendants’ alleged inability to pay. The settlement was announced three years after the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program notified the FTC about the problem. Infomercial Watch has posted an annotated transcript of the infomercial. This is the first time the FTC has imposed such broad restrictions in its first action against marketers who made false health claims. (Kevin Trudeau is similarly restricted, but he was a persistent offender.) Dr. Stephen Barrett has asked the agency to disclose (a) why the case took so long to complete, (b) where the $14+ million went, and (c) what could be done to make it possible for scams like this to be stopped more quickly. Infomercial Watch has more information about the history of the scheme.


Airborne "cold product" class-action suit settled. The makers of Airborne—a multivitamin and herbal supplement line falsely claimed to prevent and cure colds —have agreed to refund money to consumers who bought the product. Concocted by second-grade teacher Victoria Knight McDowell and her screenwriter husband Thomas Rider McDowell, Airborne was promised to “boost your immune system to help your body combat germs.” Users were instructed to “take it at the first sign of a cold symptom or before entering crowded, potentially germ-infested environments.” Its promotion included an appearance by Victoria McDowell on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2004, The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics concluded that Airborne products had not been proven effective. The settlement agreement calls for the marketers, without admitting fault, to issue up to $23.3 million in refunds. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which helped bring the suit, has reported that the FTC and 24 state attorneys general are investigating. [Airborne agrees to pay $23.3 million to settle lawsuit over false advertising of its "Miracle Cold Buster." CSPI news release, March 3, 2008] The settlement agreement is posted on Casewatch.


Missouri curbs unauthorized credit card charges related to Trudeau book. The Missouri Attorney General has obtained an assurance of voluntary compliance under which two companies that sell products through TV infomercials featuring Kevin Trudeau have provided almost $1,100 in refunds to Missouri consumers and will change the way they do business. The agreement resolves accusations that the company repeatedly charged customers for merchandise they did not order. Natural Cures uses infomercials to sell Trudeau's books. But many who ordered books complained that they were also given a subscription for a newsletter they did not order, followed by repeated bills for the newsletter. Natural Cures, Inc., which also does business as ITV Global Inc., has agreed to stop (a) charging for items not requested, (b) using consumer bank or credit card accounts for unauthorized billing, (c) charging more than the amounts advertised, and (d) delaying delivery of requested products. The agreement also called for payment of $2,000 in costs and a suspended $10,000 assessment that would be charged if the defendants violate the agreement. Complaints about Trudeau products and overcharges are widespread. Quackwatch has received several, and infomercialscams.com has posted more than 600.


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