Consumer Health Digest #02-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 29, 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.

Eckerd pays $10.7 million to settle charges of overbilling. Eckerd Corporation will pay $9 million to the federal government and 18 states to settle a civil lawsuit charging that it had billed in full for partially filled prescriptions. [United States and State of Florida, ex rel. Louis H. Mueller v. Eckerd Corporation, Case No. 8:95-CV-2030-T-17EAJ (M.D. Florida)] The suit, filed under the False Claims Act alleged that since 1986, Eckert had received more than $11.5 million in excess payments from Medicaid and other federally funded programs. Government investigators found many instances in which Eckerd was unable to completely fill a prescription and the patient was instructed to return at a later date for the balance. But when the patient failed to return for the balance, Eckerd did not credit the Government program accounts with the cost of the portion not actually provided. [Defense Criminal Investigative Service. Press release, June 4, 2002] Eckerd paid $5,866,751.70 to settle the federal case, $3,133,248.30 to settle with 18 state attorneys general, and $1.7 million to settle a related criminal case in June 2001. [Eckerd Corporation pays U.S. $5.8 million to settle false claims case. U.S. Dept. of Justice press release, June 3, 2002]

Swiss panel blasts Galavit and Hamer's "New Medicine." The Swiss Cancer League and the Swiss Study Group for Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer have issued position papers advising against two more dubious methods. Galavit Cancer Immunotherapy is is claimed to have been developed at a secret radiolologic research laboratory as part of the Russian space program. Hamer claims that cancer is caused by sudden emotional conflict and can be cured if the conflict is resolved.

Four plead guilty to blood-test billing scheme. In the largest criminal case of its kind in California, four people have pled guilty to federal charges of billing approximately $19 million for fake blood tests:

The defendants used proprietary information about patients and doctors in the Medi-Cal program to bill for tests on blood purchased from people recruited off the streets. The claim forms falsely indicated that the tests had been ordered by physicians. The samples were not from the patients identified on the forms. [Lab owners to plead guilty in billing scheme that led to $19 million in false claims going to Medi-Cal. U.S. Justice Department press release, Oct 2, 2002]

Cancer scammer signs consent agreement. David L. Walker (individually and doing business as DLW Consulting, Inc.) has agreed to settle FTC charges that his claims for "CWAT-Treatment: BioResonance Therapy and Molecular Enhancer" were unsubstantiated. Walker had claimed that his treatment made surgery, chemotherapy, and other conventional cancer treatments unnecessary and that only 15 out of 745 users have not survived. His system, which sold for between $2,400 and $5,200, included herbal products, dietary supplements and an electrical device called the "Molecular Enhancer." The settlement permanently bars Walker from making unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits and efficacy of health-related products and services. In a companion case, the Washington Attorney General obtained a judgment barring the unsubstantiated claims in the State of Washington and requiring Walker to pay $229,000 in consumer restitution. [Bogus cancer cure guru settles FTC charges. FTC news release, Oct 29. 2002]

Washington nails spammer. A judge in Washington has upheld charges that Jason Heckel, of Salem, Oregon, and his company, Natural Instincts, had violated the state's anti-spam law by sending millions of unsolicited emails plugging his booklet "How to Profit from the Internet." [State prevails in first spam case. Washington Attorney General news release, Sept 13, 2002] The complaint describes many of the techniques that spammers use to disguise their identity.

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This page was posted on October 29, 2002.