Consumer Health Digest #02-28

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 9, 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.

Antioxidants vs. Alzheimer's disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association has published two studies which found that high dietary intake of Vitamins C and E may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease. [Engelhart MJ and others. Dietary intake of antioxidants and the risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA 287:3223-3229, 2002 and Morris M and others. Dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease in a biracial community. JAMA 287:3230-3237, 2002] The data also showed that supplements of C and E did not have the same effect. An accompanying editorial pointed out the pitfalls of the studies and stated that definitive evaluation of supplementation would require longer observational studies and a clinical trial comparing supplement users and non-users. [Foley J, White LR. Dietary intake of antioxidants and the risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA 287:3261-3263, 2002] Adequate dietary intake of antioxidants is easily achieved by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Quackwatch launches dental site. Quackwatch has set up Dental Watch, a site intended to help consumers and the news media make intelligent decisions about dental care. The first feature article is about air abrasion, a "drilling" method with a high potential for abuse.

FDA bans "nicotine water," and "nicotine lollipops." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that "nicotine water" (marketed as Nico Water) is an unapproved new drug that cannot be legally marketed in the United States without FDA approval as safe and effective for its intended purpose. The FDA made this determination after concluding that claims on the manufacturer's Web site indicated that the product was intended to treat or mitigate nicotine addiction, which the agency considers a disease. The agency also determined such products cannot be marketed as dietary supplements because their active ingredients (nicotine and nicotine polacrilex) are approved for drug use. (Bottles of Nico Water contain 4 milligrams of nicotine approximately equal the amounts in two cigarettes or a stick of nicotine gum.) The FDA's action was taken in response to a citizen's petition from the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Medical Association, and the American Lung Association. [FDA grants citizen's petition seeking unapproved drug classification for "nicotine water." FDA news release, July 2, 2002] The manufacturer's Web site now states that it is under construction, but the Internet Archive shows how the product has been advertised.

In April 2002, the FDA ordered three pharmacies (Ashland Drug, Bird's-Hill Pharmacy, and Compounding Pharmacy) to stop selling "nicotine lollipops" and warned that the lollipops could be mistaken for candy and be dangerous to small children. The petitioners have also petitioned the FDA to regulate other new nicotine-containing products that are being marketed as alternatives to traditional cigarettes. These products include a candy-like tobacco lozenge, and new cigarette or cigarette-like products claimed to reduce smokers' health risks. [Meyers M. FDA action against nicotine water underscores need for regulation of all nicotine-containing products, including tobacco. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids news release, July 2, 2002]

Scam artists using "Do Not Call List" ruse. The FTC has warned consumers about calls from persons who pretend to be calling on behalf of a "Do Not Call" registry and asks for personal information, such as their Social Security, bank account, credit card, or telephone calling card number, supposedly to verify that you are on the "Do Not Call" list. The personal information is then used to run up debts in the victim's name or otherwise steal the victim's identity. The agency advises that once a consumer signs up with a state's actual "Do Not Call" registry, there is no need to confirm personal information. [Scam artists use do not call registry to commit fraud. FTC news release, June 25, 2002]

California woman sentenced for marketing dubious supplement products. Diane Eckert-Kunick, 40, who managed a retail store in Tehachapi, California, has been fined $10,000 and sentenced to four months in a halfway house followed by five years of probation. In April she pled guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of introducing unapproved new drugs into interstate commerce. Press reports state that she fraudulently promised cures for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and many other illnesses. The products were also supposed to clean clogged arteries, treat AIDS and attack viral and parasitic infections. Under the plea agreement, Eckert-Kunick admitted that between November 1998 and May 2000, she sold New Gaia Products named GaiaCol, Gaia Cu-29, AquaGaia, GaiaGold, Gaia DHEA, Gaia TI-22 and Gaiacleanse. She also agreed never to be involved in the development, manufacture or distribution of FDA-regulated products or unapproved new drugs.

AIDS "vaccine" pill criticized in Thailand. Thailand's Public Health Ministry has warned the distributors of the V-1 Immunitor pill not to exaggerate its effectiveness against HIV infections. The Salang Bunnag Foundation, which refers to the product as a vaccine, had distributed it free of charge to thousands of people, but controversy erupted because of advice to stop taking their prescribed drugs. The product is registered as a dietary supplement and cannot be legally marketed as a drug. One press report describes it as a mixture of calcium, magnesium and a "crystal carrier" said by its originator to "contain a model of the HIV virus that conveys a message about the virus to immune cells." Another report said that it contained HIV antigens from the blood of patients that had been heat-treated to render it safe. As demand for the product rose, the Foundation launched a commercial company, Immunitor Corporation, which now charges $20 to $30 for a month's supply, although some people reportedly still get it free. The manufacturer claims that short-term studies have shown positive results, but the Medical Council has concluded that V-1 Immunitor is not effective.

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This page was posted on July 9, 2002.