Consumer Health Digest #09-49
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 3, 2009
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
New antiquackery group forms. Forty-two prominent professionals have created the Institute for Science in Medicine (ISM), an international policy group that seeks to promote science to ensure that healthcare is safe, effective, and cost-effective. ISM sees an ongoing threat in the growing number of fringe practitioners and their medically dubious diagnoses and treatments. Part of it mission is to alert the public and policy-makers to the dangers of ignoring scientific validation of medical interventions. The group's first public action is a plea against coverage of unscientific practices in pending health reform bills. [Health care reform bills legitimize quackery: New policy institute warns provisions open door to costly substandard care. ISM press release, Nov 29, 2009] Most of ISM's leaders operate Web sites and/or blogs.
Florida AG sues spinal decompression device marketers. The Florida Attorney General's office has has accused Axiom Worldwide, its president and CEO James J. Gibson, and its vice-president Nicholas Exarhos of using false and misleading claims to market their spinal decompression machines. The complaint states:
- Axiom sold more than 1,000 of its DRX 9000 device systems to practitioners, mostly chiropractors.
- The price ($95,000 or $125,000) included brochures and suggested ads that contained false claims.
- Prospective buyers were told that the device has FDA approval, which is untrue,
- Axiom falsely represented that scientific trials had demonstrated an 86% success rate for treating degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, sciatica and post-surgical pain.
- Chiropractors were also led to falsely believe that Medicare and private insurers would cover the treatment.
- Since March 2006, Florida's licensing authorities have disciplined twelve chiropractors who used Axiom's misleading marketing materials.
The Attorney General's lawsuit suit seeks (a) an injunction barring further deceptive practices, (b) restitution to consumers, and (c) disgorgement to the State of Florida of all revenues that resulted from "transactions with consumers, generated as a result of the unconscionable, unfair and deceptive practices" identified in the complaint. Other marketers of spinal decompression devices have made similar claims, but this is the first major enforcement action. For further information, see Chirobase.
Top spammers blasted. Regulatory actions in the United States and New Zealand appear to have broken up what the anti-spam organization Spamhaus called the largest “spam gang” in the world. The perpetrators used the "Canadian Healthcare" brand name and operated an affiliate program called "Aftking." The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced:
- The gang generated billions of e-mail messages to deceptively market male-enhancement pills, prescription drugs, and weight-loss pills.
- Ringleader Lance Atkinson, a New Zealand citizen and Australian resident, has admitted his involvement to New Zealand authorities and paid more than $80,000 (nearly $108,000 New Zealand dollars). A U.S. federal judge has ordered Atkinson and his company Inet Ventures Pty Ltd.to pay $15.15 million and three corporate defendants—Tango Pay, Click Fusion, and Two Bucks Trading—to pay a total of $3.77 million.
- To settle FTC charges, Atkinson’s accomplice, U.S. resident Jody Smith, has agreed to pay approximately $212,000 and assign any rights he has to more than $600,000 held in frozen bank accounts. In August 2009, Smith pled guilty to a criminal charge of conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods. He is scheduled for sentencing this month.
- In a related development, Atkinson’s brother, Shane Atkinson, and another New Zealander will pay nearly $112,000 ($150,000 New Zealand dollars) for their part of the scam.
Two doctors ordered to stop administering IV hydrogen peroxide treatment. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has reprimanded Kenneth B. Boyd, M.D. and Paul H. Cochrane, D.O. for administering intravenous hydrogen peroxide to patients without proper informed consent. Each was also fined $3,000 and from any further involvement in the administration of intravenous hydrogen peroxide. Intravenous hydrogen peroxide lacks FDA approval and has no proven value. In 1997, the Board fined Cochrane $5,000 for failing to report that he had pleaded "no contest" to a criminal charge of practicing optometry without a license.
This page was revised on December 4, 2009.