Consumer Health Digest #02-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 4, 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.

"Penis enlargement" pills blasted. The Arizona Attorney General, together with the U.S. Customs Service and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, have seized over $30 million in luxury homes, cars, cash, jewelry, and bank accounts throughout Arizona from Michael A. Consoli, Vincent J. Passafiume; and Geraldine Consoli (Michael's mother), who marketed bogus penis enlargement pills over the Internet. Operating as C.P. Direct, Inc., the trio claimed that their product "Longitude" would permanently enlarge the penis by 1-3 inches. A one-month bottle cost $59.95 plus shipping and handling for the first month and $39.95 per month thereafter, even though the company only paid about $2.50 per bottle. [Attorney General, U.S. Customs Service, Arizona Department of Public Safety seize more than $30 million in assets from company selling bogus growth pills. Press release, Arizona Attorney General, May 29, 2002] Quackwatch has additional information.

Hallelujah Diet debunked. Quackwatch has posted a detailed critique of Reverend George Malkmus and his Hallelujah Diet, which is widely promoted as a cancer cure. Malkmus claims to have eliminated his colon cancer and other serious health problems more than 25 years ago by "following biblical principles for a natural diet and healthy lifestyle." He and his wife Rhonda Jean operate Hallelujah Acres, where they hold seminars, sell products, and advocate a diet that features raw fruits and vegetables. There is no scientific evidence or reason to believe that the Hallelujah Diet can cure cancer. Although low-fat, high-fiber diets can be healthful, the Hallelujah Diet is unbalanced and can lead to serious deficiencies. The overall program is expensive because the recommended supplements cost over $2,000 a year. Malkmus had a hemorrhagic stroke last year (at the age of 67), but he assures his followers that he has recovered completely.

Supreme Court weakens federal regulation of compounded drugs. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld lower court rulings that the FDA could not restrict pharmacists from advertising or promoting compounded drugs (drug products made by mixing or altering the strength of ingredients). The FDA Modernization Act of 1997 exempted compounded drugs from standard drug approval requirements as long as prescriptions are unsolicited and that the drugs are not advertised or promoted. These provisions were challenged by compounding pharmacies who argued that they violate the First Amendment's free speech guarantee. The Supreme Court concluded that the FDA could protect against overpromotion by banning commercial-scale manufacturing or similar measures without restricting the flow of truthful information. [Thompson et al. v. Western States Medical Center, April 29, 2002] The 1997 law was passed in response to FDA concerns that pharmacists, under the guide of compounding, were making unsubstantiated claims and placing untested drugs in the hands of consumers. Although some compounded drugs are useful, many compounders are providing products that have not been proven effective for their intended purposes or are unsafe. [Bouts BA. The misuse of compounding by pharmacists. Quackwatch Web site, revised June 4, 2002] The Supreme Court ruling places consumers at greater risk because the FDA does not have adequate resources to police what compounders do.

Anti-quackery classic (The Toadstool Millionaires) posted online. The full text of James Harvey Young's history of patent medicines in America has been posted to Quackwatch. The 1961 book details events from colonial times through passage of the first federal food and drug law.

IOM supports hepatitis B vaccine safety. The Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review Committee has found no evidence that hepatitis B vaccine causes or triggers multiple sclerosis or any other neurologic disease. Its report advises government agencies to continue to encourage the vaccination of infants, adolescents, and adults (such as healthcare workers) at high risk of exposure to the hepatitis B virus, which can cause serious liver damage. [No link found between hepatitis B and certain neurologic disorders. National Academies news release, May 30, 2002.] This study is the fourth in a series of eight on vaccine safety sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The report can be read free of charge online or ordered from the National Academy Press Web site.

Locating new and used books. The AddAll Web site enables users to search and compare prices among more than 40 sites and 20,000 sellers.

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This page was posted on June 4, 2002.