Consumer Health Digest #04-32

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 10, 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.

Medical impostor resentenced. "Gerald Barnes," 66, who is serving a 12.5-year sentence on his fourth conviction for impersonating a physician, has been sentenced to 10 additional years for again posing as a doctor after escaping from prison in 2000. He was also ordered to stop using the name Gerald Barnes. [Man with long career of impersonating doctor sentenced to additional 10 years in federal prison. USDOJ news release, May 17, 2004] Barnes was born Gerald Barnbaum. In 1970, he began using the name of Gerald Barnes, a licensed physician practicing in Stockton, California. He then obtained copies of Dr. Barnes' school records and medical credentials and used them to obtain employment at medical clinics and offices in Southern California. In 1981, he pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of a 29-year-old patient he had misdiagnosed who died of complications from diabetes. He was convicted again in 1984 and 1989 on state charges of grand theft and writing fraudulent prescriptions. Upon each release from prison, he resumed his impersonation of Dr. Barnes. In 1996, he pled guilty to federal charges related to his ongoing impersonation of a physician. Before his arrest, he had worked as medical director of Executive Health Group, a Los Angeles clinic with a client list including the Federal Reserve Bank, the FBI, and other major corporations. In August 2000, he escaped from federal custody while being transferred from a prison in California, to one in Illinois. He immediately returned to Los Angeles, assumed the identity of Dr. Barnes, and held a $10,000-a-month job at until he was arrested in September 2000. The new sentence will expire in 2019.

Court upholds regulatory action against phony breast developer. The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a lower court order under which the marketers of a "Stimulations VII" breast developer device must pay $90,000 in penalties and attorneys fees and pay restitution of over $300,000 if requested by Iowa purchasers. In December 2001, a district court permanently barred New Womyn, Inc., and its president, Dan Kaiser from marketing the device within Iowa with claims that it would regrow breasts or cause breast enlargement. The device was based on the notion that applying a vacuum to the outside of the breast would cause it to permanently enlarge. However, Kaiser failed to present credible evidence that the device worked as advertised. Quackwatch has posted additional details..

Heavy metals found in "hair supplement." Health Canada has ordered a recall and is warning consumers not to use Sesa Hair Supplement capsules, a product alleged to treat hair loss. The product is manufactured by Rani-Pharma Inc. of Scarborough, Ontario, but may also be sold by herbalists and acupuncturists without the company's name on the label. Health Canada investigated after learning that a patient taking the product required hospitalization due to lead poisoning. The assessment found that the capsules contained more than 7,000 times the allowable limit of lead in a health product and also contained mercury and arsenic. Health Canada strongly advises anyone who has used Sesa Hair Supplement capsules to consult their physician. [Health Canada warns Canadians not to use "Sesa Hair Supplement." News release, July 23, 2004]

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This page was posted on August 10, 2004.