Consumer Health Digest #04-25
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 22, 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.
FTC hits major weight-loss scammers. The Federal Trade Commission has charged a Utah-based company, five related corporations, and three individuals with making many false and unsubstantiated claims for weight-loss and fat-loss gels and supplements. The complaint focuses on six heavily promoted products: Dermalin, Cutting Gel, and Tummy Flattening Gel (topical fat-loss gels with the same active ingredient); Leptoprin and Anorex (identical weight-loss supplements for "significantly overweight" people which contained ephedrine, caffeine, aspirin, calcium and an additional patented ingredient); and PediaLean (a glucomannan weight-loss supplement for children). The defendants are Basic Research, L.L.C.; A.G. Waterhouse, L.L.C.; Klein-Becker usa, L.L.C.; Nutrasport, L.L.C.; Sovage Dermalogic Laboratories, L.L.C.; BAN, L.L.C.; Dennis Gay; Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., also doing business as American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory; and Mitchell K. Friedlander, all operating from the same Salt Lake City facility.
The corporations operate as a common enterprise. Leptoprin has been heavily advertised through short-form infomercials; the topical gels have been promoted through newspapers and national magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, and Muscle and Fitness; and PediaLean has been advertised in magazines such as Redbook. Dermalin, Cutting Gel, and Tummy Flattening Gel all contain the active ingredient aminophylline in a lecithin base. Dermalin and Tummy Flattening Gel are sold under the trade names Klein-Becker USA and Sovage and are advertised primarily to women interested in thinning their figures. Cutting Gel, sold under the Nutrasport trade name, is primarily advertised to male bodybuilders who want to eliminate areas of fat that obscure their muscle definition. The challenged claims include:
- Dermalin, Cutting Gel, and Tummy Flattening Gel cause rapid and visibly obvious fat loss in areas of the body to which they are applied.
- Published, clinical testing proves that Cutting Gel and Tummy Flattening Gel cause rapid and visibly obvious fat loss in areas of the body to which they are applied.
- Leptoprin and Anorex cause weight loss of more than 20 pounds in significantly overweight users and that those products cause loss of substantial, excess fat in significantly overweight users.
- Clinical testing proves that Leptoprin causes weight loss of more than 20 pounds, including as much as 50, 60, or 147 pounds, in significantly overweight users.
- Clinical testing proves that Leptoprin causes loss of substantial, excess fat in significantly overweight users.
- PediaLean causes substantial weight loss in overweight or obese children, and that clinical testing proves such claims.
- Mowrey is a medical doctor.
A notice order issued with the complaint prohibits the defendants from making unsubstantiated claims about health or weight-loss benefits, performance, safety, or efficacy of any service, program, dietary supplement, food, drug, or device. The order also prohibits misrepresentations about tests or the profession, expertise, training, education, experience or qualifications of Mowrey or any other endorser. [Ads for various diet supplements and topical gels don't cut the fat, says the FTC: Companies do not have adequate substantiation to support the claims. FTC news release, June 16, 2004] The case is especially significant because Friedlander is one of the most egregious mail-order health scammers of all time. During the early 1980s, doing business as the Robertson-Taylor Company and at least six other companies, he took in tens of millions of dollars for fraudulent weight-loss aids, hair restorers, sexual stimulants, impotence cures, arthritis remedies, and other vitamin products. [Shearing the suckers. Consumer Reports Feb 1986, pp 87-92] The U.S. Postal service ended these promotions with a series of cease-and-desist orders.
FTC challenges claims for children's weight-loss pill and women's sex aid. The FTC has charged three Florida-based companies and their principals with making false and unsubstantiated claims that "Pedia Loss" is an appetite suppressant for children 6 and older that slows the absorption of fat and safely burn[s] fat. The Commission's administrative complaint names Dynamic Health of Florida, LLC; Chhabra Group LLC; DBS Laboratories, LLC; Vineet Chhabra, also known as Vincent Chhabra; and Jonathan Barash. Pedia Loss was advertised through www.pedialoss.com, www.dynamichealthproducts.com, and www.dbslabs.com, and in Cosmopolitan magazine. The complaint also challenges advertising disseminated by respondents for Fabulously Feminine, a supplement purportedly designed to enhance female sexuality. The defendants advertised Fabulously Feminine on www.usaprescription.com, www.dbslabs.com, and www.medprescribe.com, and in print ads in various newspapers. The complaint alleges that their claims that Fabulously Feminine will increase a woman's libido, sexual desire, and sexual satisfaction by stimulating blood flow and increasing sensitivity. The FTC also disputes the claim that clinical testing proves that Fabulously Feminine enhances a woman's satisfaction with her sex life and level of sexual desire is false. Barish has signed a consent agreement to settle the charges against him. [FTC Challenges ads for kids' weight loss pill: Evidence to support ad claims was slim, per FTC complaint. FTC news release, June 16, 2004] In related testimony to a House of Repesentatives subcomittee, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Howard Beales III said that the FTC has brought enforcement actions against 15 other false advertisers whose promotions including products intended for children.
"Maker's Diet" author tied to illegal supplement marketing. The FDA has ordered Garden of Life of West Palm Beach, Florida, to stop making unsubstantiated claims for "Q-Zyme,""Primal Defense," "Virgin Coconut Oil," "Fungal Defense," "FYI (For Your Inflammation)," "RM-10," "Revivall Classic," or other products. [Singleton ER. Warning letter to Robert U. Craven. May 11, 2004] The company was founded by Jordan S. Rubin, "NMD, PhD, CNC," who claims to have cured himself of "intestinal parasites, severe Candida, extreme anemia, food allergies, diabetes, excruciating abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, poor circulation, liver problems, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, insomnia, hair loss, prostate and bladder infections, irregular heartbeat, eye inflammation, and chronic depression." Rubin's credentials have no legitimate academic or professional standing:
- His NMD (naturopathic medical doctor) is from the Peoples University of the Americas School of Natural Medicine, a nonaccredited school with no campus.
- His Ph.D. is from the Academy of Natural Therapies, a nonaccredited correspondence school that the State of Hawaii ordered to close last year.
- His CNC (Certified Nutritional Consultant) comes from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, whose only requirement for "professional member" status has been payment of a $50 or $60 fee. The CNC requires passage of a test based mainly on the contents of books that promote nutrition quackery.
Rubin's book, "The Maker's Diet," is number 14 on the New York Times list of hardcover advice books. The book's Web site states that Rubin "uses Biblical and scientific resources to provide a uniquely holistic wellness program." Entrepreneur Magazine listed Garden of Life as the fifth fastest-growing company in America, with 2003 sales of $43.2 million.
Appeals court upholds license revocation of "biological dentist." A Florida Court of Appeals has upheld the Florida Board of Dentistry order revoking the license of Douglas J. Phillips, D.D.S., of West Palm Beach, Florida. In 2001, the Board concuded that Phillips had (a) failed to keep adequate records, (b) failed to maintain malpractice insurance, and (c) practiced below the standard of care. The substandard practice included Autonomic Response Testing (ART), a variation of applied kinesiology in which muscle tests are used to diagnose health problems throughout the patient's body. According to the judge's report, Phillips's dental assistant held the patient's hand with one hand while Phillips pulled down on the assistant's other arm. When the assistant's shoulder muscle tested weak after the patient was exposed to a stimulus, Phillips concluded that the area of the patient's body corresponding to the stimulus was not healthy. If the assistant's shoulder remained strong, Phillips concluded that the tested area was healthy. The various stimuli included touching the patient's individual teeth and placing heavy metals, bacteria from root canal teeth, and homeopathic remedies on the patient's lap. Phillips alleged that these tests enabled him to determine the condition of the patient's internal organs, evaluate her dental problems, and identify the homeopathic remedies that would best promote healing. Based on the results, he concluded that the patient's tonsils, heart, spleen, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, large intestines, and pubic area were compromised and that two of the patient's teeth with root canals were toxic.
In addition to the revocation, the Board assessed $151,181.24 for administrative costs. Phillips appealed the Board's decision through the court system and obtained a temporary stay that enabled him to continue practicing. However, in April 2004, the appeals court concluded:
Where the Board faced public policy issues concerning a dentist's continued use of practices one of its members described as "bogus" and "quackery," its determination that revocation was appropriate is especially entitled to deference and will not easily be disturbed. It may seem unfortunate for this dentist that the Board has made him an example of the type of dentistry the Board has decided to discourage. But the Board is given precisely that power. Indeed, its very purpose is to regulate competency in the dental profession.
Hulda Clark's "publicist," Patrick "Tim" Bolen, who was present during the proceedings, labeled them a "quackbuster conspiracy" and issued libelous reports distorting what took place. Bolen's antics significantly increased the length of the hearings, the amount assessed for costs, and Phillips's legal bills. See Quackwatch for further details.
SIDS Alliance supports immunization. First Candle/SIDS Alliance, whose mission is to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), stillbirths, and miscarriages, has issued a position statement debunking claims that immunization is a cause of SIDS. The statement concludes:
Claims that immunizations increase the risk of SIDS are not supported by the scientific data. Immunization has not been isolated as a risk factor for SIDS and, in fact, babies who receive their scheduled shots are less likely to die of SIDS. Maintaining immunization schedules contributes to the overall health and well being of the vast majority of children. Most reactions to the vaccines are usually mild. While we are aware that serious adverse outcomes such as high fever, seizures, convulsions and even death—though rare—may occur in a very few children, the risk of leaving a child unprotected against such dangerous diseases as tetanus or whooping cough is thousands of times greater than any risk posed by using the vaccines.
This page was revised on June 23, 2004.