Consumer Health Digest #02-10
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 5, 2002
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.
NCAHF blasts WHCCAMP draft report. The National Council Against Health Fraud wants Congress and the Bush Administration to reject the findings of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP). Last November, the Commission issued an 86-paragraph draft report recommending across-the-board "integration" of "complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)" into government health agencies and the nation's medical, medical education, and insurance systems. A final report is is due to be released soon. NCAHF's position paper, which is based on the draft report, concludes:
NCAHF has examined the background and credentials of WHCCAMP's members. Most are philosophically aligned with the so-called "CAM" movement, and many have an economic interest in this area. Few knowledgeable critics are among them. . . .
NCAHF believes that this Commission has failed in its mission. For a Commission of professionals with medical and other advanced degrees, its activities apparently lacked scholarship and rigor. Its draft report lacks both value and validity. Instead of seizing an opportunity to critically examine "CAM" theories and practices and making a rational and reasoned report to the President, the Commission blindly advocates policies that are illogical and economically senseless. The value of any possible therapies that may have emerged from careful review and testing has been lost in a tidal wave of enthusiasm for anything merely bearing the label of "CAM."
Quackwatch has posted a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the WHCCAMP draft report. Detailed information about the individual WHCCAMP members is posted at http://www.no-whccamp.org/#sketches
FTC curbs bogus anti-bioterrorism products. Two companies have signed consent agreements in which they promised not to make unsubstantiated claims for products related to the anthrax scares.
- Vital Living Products, Inc., a North Carolina-based company sometimes doing business as American Water Service, and Donald R. Podrebarac, its president, had falsely claimed that its PurTest Anthrax Test (PTAT) kits would enable consumers to home-test for anthrax bacteria and spores in the air, in water, or on surfaces, at home or in the workplace. After the September 11, 2001 tragedy, the defendants began marketing to hardware stores and on the Internet, claiming that their tests were 95% accurate.
- Kris Pletschkehe, who operated "rawhealth.net," had made unsubstantiated claims that their colloidal silver product could treat or cure 650 different diseases; eliminate all pathogens in the human body in six minutes or less; and is medically proven to kill every destructive bacterial, viral, and fungal organism in the body, including anthrax, Ebola, Hanta, and flesh-eating bacteria. Pletschke is also required to offer full refunds to purchasers.
Since mid-November 2001, the FTC has issued 121 warnings to Internet marketers of bogus bioterrorism-related products and about half have eliminated the challenged claims. [FTC announces first two enforcement actions against purveyors of bioterrorism defense products. News release, Feb 27, 2002]
Cancer fraudster pleads guilty. James Gary Davidson, operator of a Mexican cancer clinic that treated people with a fraudulent device, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering. To receive the treatment, the patient would lie on a table inside a "treatment ring" that creates a weak magnetic field. According to a local news report, Davidson admitted in court that he had lied about his education and credentials. He faces a minimum sentence of nearly six years in prison, a $500,000 fine, and and payment of $675,000 in restitution. His sentencing is scheduled for June 14th. [Devine JK. Man admits to pretending to be a doctor. Jackson (Tennessee) Sun, March 5, 2002]
Wild yam cream marketers sued for fraud. Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan has charged the Health Notification Service, of Henderson, Nevada, and its owners (Roger J. and Debra Peeples) with misleading consumers in the marketing of a supposed alternative to prescription estrogen drugs. The product has been promoted through official-looking mailings purporting to be a recall of all "Prescription Estrogens and Progestins" because of "Severe and Prolonged Life-Threatening Side Effects." Ryan's lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction, civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation, and reasonable costs for prosecuting and investigating the case.[Consumer fraud suit filed for promoting "miracle cream." News release, Feb 28, 2002] In September 2000, the FDA had warned the owners that it was illegal to suggest that their "Miracle Wild Yam Cream" was useful in treating or preventing osteoporosis, symptoms of menopause, depression, premenstrual syndrome, breast cancer, postpartum depression, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic mastitis, infertility, or other diseases and conditions.
Quackwatch archiving FDA warning letters. Quackwatch has begun summarizing FDA warning letters issued since November 1996 about foods, dietary supplements, herbs, homeopathic remedies, and devices marketed with misleading claims. The first list includes 29 letters issued during 2001. Two companies were notified that 13 devices they were marketing were unapproved medical devices that are illegal to market in the United States. The devices included the BTA S-2000 (aka Bioscan 2010, purported to determine the likelihood of developing a serious disease, and various Vegatest models claimed to diagnose and/or treat various diseases. These devices are frauds with no diagnostic or therapeutic value. Six companies were ordered to stop marketing unapproved products made from red yeast rice powder, which contains lovastatin, the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering prescription drug Mevacor.
This page was posted on March 6, 2002.