Consumer Health Digest #11-37
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 3, 2011
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.
Delta Airlines playing misleading vaccination "infomercial." Delta Airlines has begun running a 3-minute video message that subtly discourages people from receiving the flu vaccine by ignoring the seriousness of the flu and referring viewers to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) Web site. Public health agencies estimate that each year the flu kills up to 49,000 people in the U.S. and 500,000 people worldwide, with up to 5 million serious cases. The NVIC video recommends washing hands and covering the mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing. These actions can reduce the spread of infection. However, vaccination is more important, but the video does not encourage its use. For example, while wrongly asserting that attention to vitamin C and D intake is an important preventive strategy, the video merely describes flu shots as "another option." Overall, NVIC discourages the use of vaccination by downplaying benefits and exaggerating risks. The video has aroused a storm of protest:
- Hippocrates Speaks has posted a detailed analysis of the video.
- Respectful Insolence Blog has labeled the message an example of "misinformed consent."
- Skepchick provides additional analysis plus detailed instructions on how to protest by phone and email.
- More than 1,200 people have signed a petition asking Delta to stop displaying the NVIC's infomercial.
British ad regulator blasts reiki claims. The British Advertising Standards Authority has ordered two reiki promoters to stop representing on their Web sites that reiki is effective against a long list of diseases and conditions.
- The International Reiki and Healing Centre in Kent, England, stated that reiki was an effective therapy for cancer, ADHD, back pain, migraine, depression, anger, low energy, sleeplessness, ADD, sadness, bereavement, tinnitus and sciatica.
- "Reiki master" Christina Moore of East Sussex, England, claimed that reiki could treat grief, insomnia, tinnitus, lack of confidence, back pain, constipation, Candida, skin disorders, anxiety, stress, tension, worry, and phobias.
Reiki is based on the idea that the body is surrounded or permeated by an energy field that is not measurable by ordinary scientific instrumentation but can be manipulated to improve health. [Barrett S. Reiki is nonsense. Quackwatch, Nov 3, 2011]
Hoodia marketers settle FTC charges. Three people and two companies have settled FTC charges related to their promotion of weight-loss products. [In FTC 'hoodia' weight loss case, settlement requires defendants to turn over assets. FTC news release, Nov 3, 2011] In its 2009 complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants made false and deceptive claims about hoodia and its effectiveness as a treatment for obesity and falsely claimed that their ingredient was hoodia when it was not. Under the settlement:
- David J. Romeo, and two companies he controlled, Nutraceuticals International LLC and Stella Labs LLC, are banned from making any weight-loss claims while marketing foods, drugs, and dietary supplements. The settlement imposes a $22.5 million judgment against Romeo and the two companies, which will be suspended when Romeo forfeits his vacation home in Vermont and enables the FTC to collect on $635,000 in business loans owed to him.
- Nutraceuticals International principal Craig Payton is banned from marketing any foods, drugs, or dietary supplements. The order against Payton does not require him to forfeit any assets because they were already seized in an unrelated federal drug case.
- Nutraceuticals International marketing executive Deborah B. Vickery is required to pay a $4 million judgment, which has been suspended due to her inability to pay.
- All five defendants are prohibited from making any false or unsupported claims about foods, drugs, or dietary supplement and from helping others make these claims.
- If it is later determined that the financial information Romeo or Vickery gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgments against them will become due.
The FTC dropped its charge against a fourth individual, Zoltan Klivinyi, who served as an officer of Nutraceuticals International but is no longer residing in the United States. Hoodia is derived from the plant Hoodia gordonii. The agency has completed at least three other cases against hoodia marketers.
This page was posted on November 4, 2011.