Consumer Health Digest #03-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 29, 2003

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.

Preventive task force issues vitamin recommendations. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has concluded there is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend vitamin supplements as a way to prevent cancer or heart disease and recommended against using beta-carotene supplements for smokers because of a possible increased risk of lung cancer and death. The Task Force conclusions are based on a review of studies on the use of vitamins A, C, or E, multivitamins with folic acid, or antioxidant combinations to reduce the risk for cancer or cardiovascular disease in adults. The Task Force, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is the leading independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care. A spokesperson commented:

Vitamin supplements may be necessary for individuals whose diets don't provide the recommended amounts of specific vitamins and especially important for pregnant and nursing women and people with specific illnesses. However, the benefits of vitamin supplements for the general population remain uncertain. . . . There are currently a number of important studies underway which might help answer this important question.

The full text of these reports is posted on the AHRQ Web site.

Atkins diet study yields mixed results. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have reported the results of a controlled study of 63 people who were randomly assigned to either the Atkins diet or a conventional diet. The low-carbohydrate (Atkins) group lost about 4% more weight for the first 6 months, but there was no significant difference between two groups at 1 year. The low-carbohydrate diet appeared to improve risk factors for heart disease, but the authors concluded that more research is needed on the safety and effectiveness of this regimen. [Foster GD and others. A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. New England Journal of Medicine 348:2082-2090, 2003]

"Immune egg" sellers convicted. A federal jury has convicted Marilyn A. Coleman, Ph.D., of Richwood, Ohio, Mitchell V. Kaminski, M.D., of Niles Illinois, and their company (OvImmune, Inc.) of 15 counts of selling misbranded and unapproved drugs. The products were made from eggs and egg powders that OvImmune claimed contained antibodies to various human diseases. In their marketing materials, Coleman and OvImmune described their egg powder as "magic bullets" that could cure, mitigate, treat or prevent various diseases including AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, attention deficit disorder, autism, cancer, candidiasis, Chlamydia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence presented during the trial showed that the company had bought approximately 10,000 chickens to inject with the vaccines. They then powdered or freeze-dried some of the eggs, packaged the powder and promoted the products through news releases, television and newspaper interviews, and over the Internet. Testimony showed that some of the substance was packaged in plastic bags in the basement of Coleman's home. [Two convicted for making, selling "magic bullet" egg powder: Richwood woman, Illinois man committed food and drug violations. USDOJ news release, July 23, 2003] In 2002, Raymond M. Suen and For Your Health, Inc., both of Seattle, Washington, pled guilty in Columbus to conspiring with Coleman and Kaminski to distribute unapproved and misbranded drugs in interstate commerce. In 2001, the FDA had warned Coleman that it was illegal to market eggs containing antibodies produced by immunizing chickens with investigational vaccines. The letter also letter objected to claims on the For Your Health Web site that the powdered egg-yolk product could replace the immunity lost during AIDS, burns, and cancer; ameliorate the effects of routine infections; and "potentially treat all known diseases." Although the defendants contended that the products were "dietary supplements," the associated health claims made them subject to federal regulation as drugs.

Naturopath indicted for improper narcotic prescribing. A federal grand jury has returned a 195-count indictment for Jeffrey H. Feingold, N.M.D., a naturopath who practices in Scottsdale, Arizona. [Physician indicted on 195 counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances. USDOJ press release, July 23, 2003.] The indictment alleges that in 2001 and 2002, Feingold prescribed Percoset, Oxycontin, Vicodin, hydrocodone, Lortab, Adderall, MS Contin, and morphine sulfate IR to 13 patients without a legitimate medical purpose.

Three apple cider vinegar marketers warned to curb claims. The FDA has warned three Internet marketers of apple cider vinegar tablets to stop making claims that their products are effective against various diseases:

Suits seek to block FTC's "Do Not Call" list. The American Teleservices Association (ATA) is asking a Denver Court of Appeals to reject Federal Communication Commission rules that would block certain types of unwanted telephone solicitations. In January, the ATA and the Direct Marketing Association filed separate suits against the FTC. The FTC's registry acquired more 28 million numbers in its first month.

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This page was posted on July 29, 2003.