Consumer Health Digest #04-27
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July, 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.
Preliminary injunction bans "Supreme Greens" infomercial. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has won a preliminary injunction against Donald Barrett, Direct Marketing Concepts, Inc. (DMC) and ITV Direct, Inc. (ITV), as part of the FTC's case alleging that defendants deceptively marketed their dietary supplement product, Supreme Greens with MSM. A U.S. District Court judge found that the FTC has demonstrated that Barrett, DMC, and ITV likely made numerous false and unsubstantiated claims in an infomercial promoting the product and probably made unauthorized charges to consumers' credit or debit cards. The preliminary injunction, which prohibits the challenged disease claims and any asset dissipation, will remain in effect pending the outcome of a trial on the FTC's allegations. [FTC obtains preliminary injunction against marketers of bogus cancer-cure "Supreme Greens." FTC news release, July 1, 2004] Last month the FTC charged that Barrett, DMC, ITV, and their business partners had deceptively marketed Supreme Greens through a widely aired infomercial, claiming that the product can cure, treat, or prevent cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. [Marketers of "Supreme Greens" and "Coral Calcium Daily" come under fire from the FTC. FTC news release, June 3, 2004] The preliminary injunction prohibits these claims. Five additional defendants -- Healthy Solutions, LLC and Health Solutions, Inc., and their principals Alejandro Guerrero (a.k.a. Alex Guerrero), Michael Howell, and Greg Geremesz -- have signed stipulated preliminary injunctions. In April, the FDA sent a warning letter to ITV.
FDA issues tattoo ink warning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting the public about adverse events associated with certain micropigmentation procedures, a form of tattooing, used to apply "permanent makeup" for lip liner, eyeliner, or eyebrow color. The adverse events are associated with certain ink shades of the Premier Pigment brand of permanent makeup inks manufactured by the American Institute of Intradermal Cosmetics, doing business as Premier Products. So far, the FDA knows of more than 50 adverse events and is investigating additional reports sent to the manufacturer. The reported reactions include swelling, cracking, peeling, blistering, and scarring as well as formation of granulomas (chronically inflamed tissue mass associated with an infection) in the areas of the eyes and lips. In some cases, the effects reported caused serious disfigurement, resulting in difficulty in eating and talking. In July 2003, the manufacturer notified the FDA that it would stop marketing five shades of ink five for which problems had been reported. However, reports have implicated shades that were not included in the firm's removal effort. [FDA alerts consumers about adverse events associated with "permanent makeup." FDA Talk Paper, July 2, 2004] The FDA Web site offers additional information about tattoos and permanent makeup.
Dr. Stuart Suster facing license revocation. Following a lengthy investigation, an Administrative Law Judge has concluded that Stuart M. Suster, M.D., a board-certified physiatrist who operates the Great Lakes Pain Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, has committed multiple acts of fraud and unprofessional conduct. The charges, specified in a complaint filed in October 2002, include:
- Improperly prescribing controlled drugs.
- Improperly touching 16 women, including seven whose breasts he grabbed or fondled when they were in his office and two he kissed while they were receiving "electrostimulation treatment" in a reclining chair.
- Threatening to injure four patients.
- Improperly fondling the scrotum of a male patient who had complained of constipation.
- Using an improper procedure code to bill ten insurance companies for approximately $1 million more than they might pay for properly coded claims for treatment with a Dynatron machine.
- Excessive billing in six cases, in some of which he charged both the patient and the patient's insurance company for the same services.
- Billing third-party payers for a total of more than 24 hours of physician-patient contact time on four dates.
- Substandard practice, including inadequate record-keeping, in treating three patients.
- Failing to comply with an order given in 2001 by the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board that he undergo to a five-day residential evaluation. The order was issued after several patients complained that he had spoken to them in an angry and loud manner, using language inappropriate for a physician. According to the charges, he underwent the evaluation but refused to release the required report to the Board.
After lengthy hearings, an Administrative Law Judge concluded that all of the charges were substantiated and recommended that Suster's license be revoked. The final decision will be made by the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board. Although the proceedings did not question Suster's basic use of the Dynatron machine, there is good reason to do so. Proponents claim that the device relieves chronic pain by influencing the sympathetic nervous system. However, an assessment published in 2002 by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries concluded that it has not been proven effective.
Chinese herbals found ineffective against hepatitis C. A double-blind study has found no evidence that a Chinese herbal combination can improve the quality of life, liver chemistry test results, or viral load of patients with hepatitis C viral (HCV) infection. The study involved 45 patients who received either the remedy or a placebo for 12 weeks. [A randomized trial of Chinese herbal medicines for the treatment of symptomatic hepatitis C. Archives of Internal medicine 164:1341-1346, 2004]
This page was posted on July 6, 2004.