Consumer Health Digest #04-01

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 6, 2004

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.

Quackwatch blasts infomercial industry. Quackwatch has posted a warning that, "Except for a few of the exercise devices (which may work if the user does not become bored with them), the vast majority of the promotions include false and misleading claims." [Barrett S. Be wary of health-related infomercials. Quackwatch, Jan 5, 2004] The warning statement includes analyses of two current infomercials:

Quackwatch has also posted an index of misleading infomercials discussed on Quackwatch or subjected to government regulatory action.

Consumer Reports tests infomercial exercise equipment. Consumer Reports has tested 12 fitness devices promoted through infomercials and concluded that most failed to live up to the claims made for them. TreatClimber YC 3000, Bowflex Power Pro and Total Gym XL earned positive but "expensive" ratings. Crossbow by Weider WESY5983 was judged "effective." The rest (Tony Little Gazelle Freestyle Elite, Gyrotonic Transformer 1500, Body by Jake Total Body Trainer, Body Dome, Ab Swing, Emson Smart Abs, Body by Jake Bun and Thigh Rocker, Bun and Thigh Max) were rated poor choices, because they were limited in scope, difficult to use, or overpriced. The magazine also learned that three infomercial hosts who had praised a device had stopped using it. [TV exercise devices: 6-pack abs in 14 days? Consumer Reports 69(1):17-20, 2004)

CNN/Gallup survey finds nurses are highly trusted. The annual CNN/Gallup poll to rate the honesty and ethical standards of 23 professions has found the following percentages of "very high" or "high" responses: nurses 83%, medical doctors 68%, veterinarians 68%, pharmacists 67%, dentists 61%, college teachers 59%, engineers 59%, policemen 59%, clergy 56%, psychiatrists 38%, bankers 35%, chiropractors 31%, state governors 26%, journalists 25%, senators 20%, business executives 18%; congressmen 17%,, lawyers 16%, stockbrokers 15%, advertising practitioners 12%, insurance salesmen 12%, HMO managers 11% and car salesmen 7%. [Honesty and ethics of professions. Gallup news release, Dec 1, 2003] The survey involved telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted November 14-16, 2003.

FTC settles with two diet-pill marketers and sues a third one. The FTC has announced actions related to the fraudulent promotion of three alleged weight-loss products [FTC announces law enforcement actions against marketers of fraudulent weight-loss products. FTC news release, December 9, 2003]:

Skin-patch seller ordered to stop diabetes and prostate claims. The FDA has warned Greenvalley, LLC, of Farmingdale, New York, to stop marketing transdermal products intended for the treatment of diabetes and symptoms related to prostate disease. The warning letter stated that (a) although the products were represented as dietary supplements, they did not legally qualify as dietary supplements because they were not intended for ingestion; and (b) the FDA had no information to indicate that the products were generally recognized as safe and effective for their intended use. [Woyshner JG. Warning letter to Michael Peng, Sept 25, 2003] The claims have been removed from the company's Web site but can still be found viewed through the Internet Archive or a distributor's site.

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This page was revised on July 26, 2004.