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Consumer Health Digest #03-36

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 16, 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.

Internet herbal information criticized. Researchers from Harvard have evaluated claims made on 443 Web sites located by searching for information about eight widely used herbal supplements (ginkgo biloba, St John's wort, echinacea, ginseng, garlic, saw palmetto, kava kava, and valerian root). [Morris CA, Avorn J. Internet marketing of herbal products. JAMA 290:1505-1509, 2003]. The researchers concluded:

A study published in 2002 found that many sites located by searching for "herbs" and "cancer cure" contained illegal claims. [Bonakdar RA. Herbal cancer cures on the Web: Noncompliance with the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. Family Medicine 34:522-527, 2002] Dr. Stephen Barrett advises consumers to ignore advice from anyone who has a financial interest in the sale of dietary supplements, herbs, or homeopathic products.

Electrodermal tester "under investigation" in Washington. Monte Kline, who operates two Pacific Health Centers in Washington and one in Oregon, claims on his Web site that the Washington Attorney General threatening to file suit unless Kline pays $1 million and agreed to stop doing electrodermal testing (EDT). In 2002, the Oregon Attorney General settled a lawsuit under which Kline and the Oregon proprietor agreed not to misrepresent that electrodermal testing (EDT) can diagnose food allergies, "weak organs," certain viruses, lead levels in children, and various other health problems. The stipulated judgment also required the defendants to pay $15,000 for costs and to offer refunds available to individuals whom they have tested during the previous three years. [Attorney General Myers obtains judgment against Pacific Health Center, Inc. News release, Oregon Dept. of Justice, Jan 14, 2002.] EDT is a bogus procedure claimed to detect "imbalances" in the flow of "electromagnetic energy" through the body. The devices are fancy galvanometers that reflects how hard the operator presses a probe against the patient's skin. No such device can be legally marketed in the United States for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Kline has a "PhD in Nutrition & Wholistic Health Sciences" from Columbia Pacific University, a nonaccredited correspondence school that was ordered to cease operations in California in 2001.

Another negative magnet test. A double-blind controlled study of 101 adults with heel pain has found no difference between those who wore magnetic insoles and those who wore a placebo device. After eight weeks, about a third of each group reported being all or mostly better. [Winemiller MH and others. Effect of magnetic vs sham-magnetic insoles on plantar heel pain: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 290:1474-1478, 2003]

FDA steps up enforcement against drugs illegally imported Canadian drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking an injunction against one company and has warned another to stop sending unapproved drugs from Canada to buyers in the United States. On September 9, the agency asked the Department of Justice to seek an injunction to stop Rx Depot, Inc.of Lowell Arkansas, and Rx of Canada, LLC (Rx Canada) from importing drugs that pose a serious threat to the public health. FDA has uncovered a disturbing pattern of actions by these companies resulting in potentially hazardous errors. On March 21, the FDA had warned Rx Depot that it risked enforcement action if it continued to promote sales of unapproved drugs, claiming that they were "FDA-approved" and "exactly the same as if purchased in the United States." During the course of investigating Rx Depot's practices, FDA investigators made undercover purchases of two products from Rx Depot's Oklahoma operation to determine the type and quality of products the firms were shipping to patients. In one case, the pharmacy dispensed extra pills from an unapproved manufacturer and did not indicate on the label that taking them for longer than the prescribed period could increase the risk of a serious adverse effect. [FDA takes action against companies that are importing unapproved, potentially unsafe drugs. FDA news release, Sept 9, 2003] On September 16, the FDA sent a similar warning to CanaRx Services or Detroit, Michigan. [FDA warns CanaRx Services about its illegal Internet website and mail operation obtaining unapproved and potentially risky drugs from Canada. FDA news release, Sept 15, 2003]

British agency criticizes "slimming" pill mailing. The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority has ordered Naturland RM&M Research of Middlesex to stop claiming that the papaya, grapefruit and pineapple enzymes in Phytostol 9 would "help you lose up to 10 lbs per week without changing your diet and no tiring exercises" and that the weight would not be regained.

Quackwatch passes 4 million mark. Quackwatch, which was launched in December 1996, registered its 4-millionth home-page hit on September 15. During the past year, the daily average has been 2,700.

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This page was posted on September 17, 2003.