Consumer Health Digest #01-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 5, 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.

Medical impostor (Caplinger) gets long prison sentence. Gregory Earl Caplinger, who operated a cancer clinic in the Dominican Republic, has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $1,058,000 in restitution to his victims. During his criminal career, he falsely claimed to be a distinguished and widely published medical doctor and researcher. In July 2000, after a six-day trial, a North Carolina jury convicted him of wire fraud and money laundering related to "investments" in his phony remedy "ImmuStim." The sentence is the maximum permissible under federal sentencing guidelines. Quackwatch fully describes his bogus credentials and illegal activities.

"Miss Cleo" marketers facing $224,000 penalty. The New York State Consumer Protection Board has cited Florida-based Access Resource Services (ARS), for making at least 112 calls to New Yorkers who had signed up for the "?no-call" list. The state's no-call law, which was passed in 2,000, enables the state to assess $2,000 for each violative call. The board's announcement also noted that ARS had engaged in deceptive sales practices; sold its services to minors; and "contacted hundreds of New Yorkers with a deluge of telemarketing calls, e-mails and literature that is misleading, unsolicited and unwanted." ['Miss Cleo' cited for barrage of telemarketing calls. Consumer Protection Board releases report, "Dialing for Dollars," detailing misleading sales practices by Florida psychic service. New York State Consumer Protection Board news release, Oct 31, 2001] The agency has also released a detailed report on the deception involved in marketing her services [Rhodes CA. Dialing for Dollars. New York State Consumer Protection Board, Oct 2001] The report states that "Miss Cleo" is Youree Cleomili Harris of Miami, Florida, who considers herself a "shaman." The report also states that the Psychic Readers Network, for which she acts as a spokes-psychic," generates between $300 and $400 million per year.

FDA cautions against Internet diagnostic tests. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned although some laboratory tests sold online are legitimate, others may not work or are misrepresented. The agency advises:

Source: Buying diagnostic tests on the Internet: Buyer beware, FDA Web site, Oct 31, 2001.

FTC/FDA/CDC issue warning on "anthrax cures." Three U.S. Government agencies have issued a joint warning that warns that "fraudsters often follow the headlines, tailoring their offers to prey on consumers' fears and vulnerabilities." The alert advises:

Source: Agencies offer tips for consumers eyeing online anthrax cures: FTC says fraudsters prey on consumers' fears. FTC news release, Nov 1, 2001.

Fake and poor-quality drugs found in six developing countries. Two studies reported in the June 15, 2001 issue of Lancet have found that substantial percentages of various drugs purchased pharmacies in Nigeria, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam lacked or contained the wrong amount the active ingredient. One of the research teams concluded that many anti-malarial drugs they tested were "deliberate fakes" that were directly responsible for the deaths of patients with malaria. Access to the articles is available after free registration.

Quackwatch launches site to debunk homeopathy. HomeoWatch, a new Quackwatch subsidiary, will provide a comprehensive guide to homeopathic history, theories, and current practices. Homeopathy is based on the idea that if a substance can produce symptoms in healthy people, tiny amounts of that substance can cure diseases having those symptoms. Advocates also claim that substances so dilute that no molecules of "active" ingredient remain can still exert powerful therapeutic effects. These ideas are senseless, but a quirk in federal law has enabled homeopathic products to be marketed as "drugs."

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This page was posted on November 4, 2001.