Consumer Health Digest #09-18
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 30, 2009
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.
GAO reports FDA dietary supplement regulation weakness. The General Accounting Office has concluded that consumers have little government protection against dietary supplements that are dangerous or ineffective. [Dietary supplements: FDA should take further actions to improve oversight and consumer understanding. GAO-09-250, Jan 2009] The report notes that agency lacks legal authority to keep potentially hazardous supplement ingredients off the market and has insufficient resources to study adverse-reaction reports or inspect manufacturing facilities. The report makes four recommendations that could help:
- Dietary supplement companies should be required to (a) identify themselves to the FDA, (b) give the agency each year a list of all dietary supplement products they sell and a copy of their labels, and (c) report all adverse events elated to their products.
- The FDA should clarify when an ingredient is considered a "new" ingredient and the evidence needed methods for establishing ingredient identity.
- The FDA should clarify when products should be marketed as dietary supplements or as conventional foods formulated with added dietary ingredients.
- The FDA should coordinate with stakeholder groups involved in consumer outreach to identify and evaluate additional mechanisms—such as the recent WebMD partnership—for educating consumers about the safety, efficacy, and labeling of dietary supplements.
Some of these could be carried out with existing resources, but real policing of the marketplace would require new laws that would enable enforcement to be more efficient.
New science-based autism group formed. Alison Singer has launched the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) to support autism research and provide high-quality information about autism to the general public. In January, Singer made headlines when she resigned as senior vice president of communications and strategy of Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism-related charitable organization. Singer resigned because of the group's irresponsible position that vaccination could be a cause of autism. The ASF Web site warns against using chelation therapy, Lupron, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, stem cell therapy, and the gluten-free-casein-free (GFCF) diet.
FDA issues "swine flu" health fraud alert. The FDA is warning the public to be wary of Web sites offering products claimed to prevent, treat, or cure 2009 H1N1 flu virus, and is ordering offenders to take prompt corrective action or face immediate enforcement action. Suspected fraudulent or criminal activity can be reported online.
FTC attacks another hoodia marketer. The Federal Trade Commission has charged the suppliers of an alleged Hoodia gordonii product with making deceptive claims that their product would lead to weight loss and appetite suppression. The complaint names Delaware-based Nutraceuticals International, LLC, New Jersey-based Stella Labs, LLC, and four individuals: David J. Romeo, whom the complaint identifies as controlling both companies; and Deborah B. Vickery, Craig Payton, and Zoltan Klivinyi, who are officers or directors of one or both companies. [FTC charges marketers of ‘hoodia’ weight loss supplements with deceptive advertising. FTC news release, April 26, 2009] During the FTC's investigation, experts it retained concluded that hoodia has not been proven to cause weight loss and that the defendants' products contained no hoodia. The agency has completed at least three other cases against hoodia marketers.
This page was revised on May 1, 2009.