Consumer Health Digest #09-27
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 2, 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.
Lyme scammers arrested. Robert W. Bradford, C.R.B., Inc. (d/b/a American Biologics), C.R.B.'s chief operating officer Brigitte G. Bird, and John R. Toth, M.D. have been charged with a total of 25 counts of conspiring to violate federal food and drug laws and defraud individuals seeking medical care. The indictment states that Bradford, C.R.B., and Bird marketed bogus Lyme disease products and a microscope falsely claimed to diagnose the disease. Toth, who used the microscope/product system in his office surrendered his medical license in 2006 and is is serving a 40-month prison sentence for manslaughter related to the death of a woman whom he falsely diagnosed with Lyme disease and treated with a dangerous product sold by American Biologics. In a separate case, Carl E. Haese, owner/operator of The Haese Clinic of Integrative Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has been charged with fraud in connection with using Bradford's system. [Barrett S. Lyme disease quack arrested. Casewatch, June 30, 2009]
Bradford, 77, has a long history of quackery-related activities. [Barrett S. A close look at Robert Bradford and his Committee for Freedom of Choice in Medicine. Quackwatch, June 30, 2009] In 1977, he and three others were convicted of conspiring to smuggle laetrile (a quack cancer remedy) from Mexico into the United States. In 1986, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a tax court assessment of more than $2 million in income taxes and penalties against Bradford for not reporting the income from his smuggling operation. In 1984, 1986, 1988, and 2004, the FDA took various actions against products that American Biologics marketed with illegal claims. For many years, Bradford owned, operated, and/or served as a consultant at a Mexican clinic that purported to treat cancer and other serious diseases. In the late 1990s, he founded and served as "professor of medicine" at The Capital University of Integrative Medicine, a nonaccredited "medical" school that offered a "Doctor of Integrated Medicine" degree.
Enrollment resumed in dubious chelation therapy study. The federal Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) has given permission for the $30 million NIH-sponsored Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) to resume patient enrollment. The clinical trial, which began in 2003 and was scheduled for completion in 2009, is intended to test whether intravenous disodium EDTA is effective against coronary artery disease. In May 2008, Medscape General Medicine published a lengthy report calling for the study's immediate termination because of researcher misconduct. In May 2009, OHRP issued a letter agreeing that the study subjects were not given adequate information about the experimental nature of the procedures, the reasonably foreseeable risks and discomforts of the research, or the FDA's withdrawal of approval for the chelating drug. The letter also contained three "additional questions and concerns" that were sent to the project's directors but not publicly disclosed. Kimball Atwood, M.D., lead author of the Medscape article, called the OHRP letter "a remarkably damning statement" but said that the TACT should be stopped, and should never have been approved in the first place because not enough work had been done to suggest that the treatment is safe or effective. [Atwood KA. Human subjects as political pawns. Science-Based Medicine Blog, July 1, 2009] Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., a prominent bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed and added that that subjecting anyone to the risk of chelation was "incredibly unethical." [Marchione M. Heart patients in big alternative medicine study not fully told of risks, probe finds. Associated Press, June 2, 2009]
Hyperbaric oxygen scammer sentenced to prison. Chauncey Beckwith, who owned and operated International Alternative Medicine, Inc. in Tucker, Georgia, has been sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. She was also ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution and perform 50 hours of community service. Documents in the case indicate:
- Beckwith does not hold any type of medical license.
- Between 2003 and 2007, her clinic provided hyperbaric oxygen therapy to many patients.
- None of the patients were diagnosed with medical conditions that made them eligible to receive payments from health care benefit programs.
- Beckwith submitted insurance claims that included false diagnostic codes that enabled her to fraudulently collect $1,035,144 for for the treatments.
Beckwith was arrested in December 2008 and pled guilty to one count of health care fraud in April 2009.
This page was revised on July 3, 2009.