Consumer Health Digest #01-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 29, 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.

Surgeon General urged to disband WHCCAMP. Eleven psychologists and three other critics have asked U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., to disband the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practices (WHCCAMP), which former President Bill Clinton appointed to generate recommendations about future government policies on "complementary and alternative" medical practices. The letter expresses concern that the commission does not include a single scientific expert who has expressed informed doubts about these practices and that the commission's chairman, James S. Gordon, M.D., has advocated many that are senseless. [Scientists urge Surgeon General to disband WHCCAMP, Oct 25, 2001]

British agency blasts phony weight-loss claims. The Derbyshire County Council has warned consumers to think twice before buying expensive 'miracle' slimming products. [Derbyshire residents warned over slimming products. Derbyshire County Council, Sept 7, 2001] The warning followed a Derbyshire trading standards investigation into the weight-loss claims of products advertised via the Internet and by mail order—some of which cost up to £60 for a 30-day supply.. All of the products sampled were tablets, capsules, food supplements and substitutes, advertised in magazines and on Internet sites. They county council's public analysts laboratory checked the composition of the products and the validity of the claims and found problems were with three-quarters of the samples. The more questionable products included:

Roussel Uclaf SA fined $33 million. French drugmaker Roussel Uclaf has been sentenced to pay more than $33 million in civil and criminal penalties after pleading guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and defrauding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Documents in the case indicate that the company had failed to disclose where its antibiotic drug cefaclor was made in order to prevent the agency from monitoring its production. [French drug firm pleads guilty to felony: Sentenced to pay $33 million. Department of Justice news release, Oct 19, 2001]

Bill to counter food terrorism introduced. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) has introduced the "Protecting the Food Supply from Bioterrorism Act" (S. 1551) to protect America's food supply from contamination by terrorists based overseas. The proposed law would give immediate recall and detention authority to the FDA, which currently must rely on voluntary recalls or seek authorization from a judge in order to seize tainted food. The legislation would also provide more resources to the FDA so that it can increase inspections of food imports. Currently, the it inspects less than 1% of all imports annually and uses only 700 inspectors to oversee food imports and investigate 57,000 sites.

New data on uninsured Americans. The Census Bureau has reported that the number of uninsured Americans fell from an estimated 39.3 million (14.3%) in 1999 to 38.7 million (14%) in 2000. But the AMA has warned that the number appears to be rising this year and that the September 11 terrorist attacks will aggravate the problem. The data were accumulated through a survey in March 2001 of 50,000 households.

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This page was posted on October 31, 2001.