Consumer Health Digest #01-29

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 16, 2001

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.

Naturopathic scandals in Arizona. In May 2001, the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Board of Medical Examiners fired its executive director, John L. Brewer, D.C., following allegations that he shredded documents, copied exams, and misrepresented his credentials. According to a report in the Arizona Republic, a board member had discovered that Brewer did not receive a naturopathic degree from a college in Los Angeles as he had claimed on his license application. [Fehr-Snyder K. Naturopathic board director on leave. Arizona Republic, May 11, 2001. Naturopathic Board votes to votes to fire chief: Allegations tied to credentials, paper shredding. Arizona Republic, May 12, 2001]

In June 2000, the Arizona Auditor General severely criticized the board's performance. The most serious deficiencies involved the naturopathic licensing examination, which had not been validated to ensure that it tests what naturopaths would need to practice safely. Even worse, the board consistently "adjusted" scores upward so that everyone taking the exam since 1998 passed it. With the February 1999 exam, for example:

The Auditor General's report also noted that complaints to the board had not received adequate attention and that record-keeping and overall management had been inadequate. [Davenport DK. Performance Audit: Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Board of Medical Examiners. Report No. 00-9, June 2000.]

Leo Daboub, Sr., awaits sentencing for mail fraud. Leo Leal Daboub, Sr., and four members of his family have pled guilty to various charges related to the sale of bogus health-related products and/or income tax evasion. In pleading guilty to four felony counts of mail fraud. Daboub, a California resident, admitted that from 1991 through 1998, he had operated mail-order businesses under the names Zellen Cell Pharmaceuticals, Pharmatec, International Trade, and Intermedica, selling products such as Energy Complex, Live Cell Therapy, Neutralizer GH, and Zellen Cell Therapy. The products were promoted with false claims that they were effective and that several physicians had endorsed them. State and federal enforcement agencies have brought civil actions against him as far back as 1981. See Quackwatch for further details.

Propel Fitness Water marketed with misleading claims. Propel Fitness Water—"Water from Gatorade"—is promoted "to quench and nurture active bodies." Propel is a low-calorie flavored water fortified with six vitamins. The typical price is $.99 for a 16-ounce bottle and $1.39 for a 24-ounce bottle. The product's Web site contains a "Exercise Profile" questionnaire to determine "what type of exerciser you are." (Regardless of the answer, Propel is recommended.) On June 18, 2001, the FDA sent the Quaker Oats Company a warning that Propel was misbranded because the product's statement of identify ("Purified Water with 6 Vitamins") is misleading. The letter stated that the product's name would not inform consumers that it contains other ingredients not mentioned in the name, such as a sweetener, citric acid, and flavors. Eight ounces of Propel contains 10 calories; 25% of the Daily Value of of niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, and B12 (said to "aid in energy metabolism"); and 10% of the Daily Value of vitamins C and E (said to "help neutralize free radicals"). These descriptive phrases are misleading because the vast majority of prospective users obtain adequate amounts of these nutrients in their diet, so that the extra amounts will provide no benefit.

Propel's Web site warns that, "It's important for exercisers to drink at least 10 to 12 servings of water per day. Yet, research finds that nearly two-thirds of active people get 10 or fewer servings each day." This statement is also misleading. Extreme exercise levels, prolonged strenuous activity, and hot weather may warrant a low-dose electrolyte-replacement beverage during endurance competition. However: (a) many food sources contribute to "daily "water" intake; (b) most exercisers are not at risk for dehydration; (c) under most circumstances, thirst provides an adequate guide to body fluid needs; (d) most people who need extra water during exercise can meet their needs with plain cool water.

Overall cancer incidence and death rates decreasing. The rate of new cancer cases reported and overall deaths from cancer have declined an average of 1.1% per year between 1992 and 1998. During this period, total cancer death rates declined in males and females, while cancer incidence rates declined only in males. Incidence rates in females increased slightly, largely because of breast cancer increases that occurred in some older age groups, possibly as a result of increased early detection. Female lung cancer mortality, a major cause of death in women, continued to increase but more slowly than in earlier years. In addition, the incidence or mortality rate increased in 10 other sites, accounting for about 13% of total cancer incidence and mortality in the United States. [Howe HL and others. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1973-1998, featuring cancers with recent increasing trends. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 93:824-842, 2001]

FTC stops bogus work-at-home medical billing scheme. Data Medical Capital, Inc., and its principal, Bryan D'Antonio, will be permanently banned from selling business ventures, employment opportunities, or work-at-home opportunities, and from telemarketing as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The Commission had charged that the defendants—also doing business as Datamed and MedCo—falsely promised that buyers could earn at least $23,400 per year by using their home computers to process medical bills for physicians with whom the defendants had established relationships. The proposed settlement includes payment of $559,400 to be used for consumer redress. [FTC to recover almost $560,000 from bogus medical billing scheme victimizing consumers hoping to work from home; Promoters banned for life from telemarketing. News release July 12, 2001]

Colloidal silver marketer convicted. Steven Tondre of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, has pled guilty in federal court to four misdemeanor charges of selling a misbranded product (colloidal silver) with false claims made on the Internet. Tondre, who is an electrical handyman, had been selling a mixture he called "EXP" claims that it enhanced the immune system and fought pathogens by increasing oxygen blood levels.

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This page was posted on July 17, 2001.