Consumer Health Digest #04-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 27, 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.

Metabolife and founder facing new charges. San Diego-based corporation Metabolife International, Inc., and its founder, Michael J. Ellis have been charged with six counts of making false, fictitious and fraudulent representations to the FDA and with two counts of corruptly endeavoring to influence, obstruct, and impede the FDA's regulation of dietary supplements containing ephedra. Until Congress banned the sale of ephedra in the United States in 2003, Metabolife was one of the largest retailers of dietary supplements in the United States, based largely on sales of its ephedra-based product, Metabolife 356. Ellis and the company are charged with falsely representing to the FDA that Metabolife had "never received one notice from a consumer that any serious adverse health event has occurred because of the ingestion of Metabolife 356" and that the company had a "claims-free history." Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. [News release, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, July 22, 2004]

CortiSlim marketers facing class-action suit. Twenty-nine dissatisfied customers have joined forces to file a class-action suit against the marketers of CortiSlim, an alleged weight-loss product marketed through infomercials, CortiSlim contains vitamin C, calcium, chromium, "Cortiplex Blend" (magnolia bark extract, beta-sitosterol, theanine), "Leptiplex Blend" (green tea extract, bitter orange peel extract), and "Insutrol Blend" (banana leaf extract, vanadium). Its developer, Shawn Talbot, Ph.D, claims that by adjusting cortisol levels, CortiSlim removes a key physiological signal for weight gain and that the supplement also may help balance blood-sugar to reduce cravings and maximize metabolism to boost energy expenditure and fat-burning. The suit, filed in California, charges that the product doesn't work and that the claims made for it have no scientific basis.

Chiropractor/radio host pleads guilty to tax evasion. Bruce Eric Hedendal, D.C., who had fled from Florida after being indicted for tax evasion and was extradited from Australia has pled guilty to income tax evasion. Hedendal practiced for many years in Boca Raton, Florida and hosted a syndicated radio talk show that broadcast to a few stations and through the Internet. In August 2000, a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach charged him with evading taxes for the years 1993 through 1995. After receiving a summons, Hedendal fled to Canada, Grenada, and ultimately to Brisbane, Australia, where he practiced under the names Erik Hedendahl and Park Road Holistic Centre and hosted another radio show. The indictment states that Hedendal had attempted to evade paying a total of about $180,000 in taxes on income of about $561,000 by failing to file returns and concealing his true income through the use of sham trusts, false entries on business records, and false representations to the Internal Revenue Service for the 3-year period. In addition to pleading guilty, he agreed to pay at least $718,000 in restitution. His sentencing is scheduled for October 22nd. [Barrett S. Fugitive chiropractor (Bruce Hedendal) pleads guilty to tax evasion. Chirobase Feb 26, 2004]

New Zealand creatine marketer fined. In a case initiated by the New Zealand Commerce Commission, Muscle Marketing USA Limited has been fined $70,000 for breaching Australia's Fair Trading Act in relation to its ATP Advantage Creatine Serum. Creatine provides the energy muscles need to move. The body synthesizes it from food, but it is taken in supplement form with the hope of improving sports performance. The company had claimed that 5 ml of its serum yielded the equivalent of 2500 mg of creatine, but actual tests showed that the product contained only 11.5 mg. [Muscle Marketing USA fined $70,000 for false claims about sports performance product. Media release, July 14, 2004] In May, the company was placed in liquidation.

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This page was posted on July 27, 2004.