Consumer Health Digest #04-47

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 23, 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

Body wrap company told to improve sanitation and modify claims. The FDA has ordered VMM Enterprises of Clearwater, Florida, to stop making illegal claims for its body wrapping system and to correct unsanitary practices. [Singleton E. Warning letter to Victoria M. Morton, March 5, 2004] The warning letter states: "Your firm has failed to address the adulteration issues for your products and continues to operate with almost no adherence to current Good Manufacturing Practice . . . regulations. Analysis of samples collected during the August 2003 inspection shows high microbial, yeast, and mold counts." The letter notes that the body wrap system cannot be legally marketed as either a cosmetic or a dietary supplement and that a number of salon customers have reported skin rash injuries. VMM Enterprises licenses Suddenly Slender salons nationwide. Company president Victoria Morton, who is a prominent Scientologist, states that she has successfully used the wrapping system herself. The system involves wrapping the body in porous elastic bandages soaked in a mineral solution. In 2001, the company recalled supplies of its Anti-Aging Wrap solution after an FDA inspection found contamination with Pseudomonas bacteria that can cause skin infections.

The Suddenly Slender Web site promises visible "tightening and toning" of one's figure without diet or exercise.and "guarantees" that customers will "look 10-15 inches slimmer in one hour." (A brochure states that the alleged shrinkage is calculated by adding measurements of the "hips, calves, waist, midriff, abdomen, upper arms, etc.") The site also shows before-and-after pictures of users who purportedly lost considerable weight as well as inches. However, there is no logical reason to believe that wrapping helped change their appearance, because:

Clinical trial registry bill introduced. Bills that would require clinical trials to be registered and reported have been introduced into both houses of Congress. Known as the Fair Access to Clinical Trials Act (S. 2933 and H.R. 5252), the act would require the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain and publish a data bank of clinical trials of drugs and devices. The proposed law, which meets the criteria published in September 2004 by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, would make registry participation a requirement for institutional review board approval and would provide for penalties for noncompliance.

Unlicensed "naturopath" arrested in Utah. David Eugene Pontius, a Canadian who periodically visited Utah to see patients is being prosecuted for practicing medicine or without a license, which is a third-degree felony. According to court documents: (a) Pontius allegedly treated a Utah woman who had breast cancer and died in October 2004; (b) his methods included a "muscle test," a "body scan" device, and homeopathic products; and (c) he also advised the woman to eat apricot pits and have her amalgam fillings removed. (The muscle test and "body scan" have no diagnostic value; homeopathic products have no therapeutic value.) An article in the Salt Lake City Tribune indicates that Pontius applied for a naturopathic license in 1997 but was turned down because he lacked appropriate qualifications. The criminal charges are posted on Quackwatch.

Infomercial scam video released. The Electronic Retailing Association has sponsored a humorous but serious 30-second public service video about the making of a weight-loss infomercial. The video and an accompanying graphic can be downloaded from Diet Scam Watch. Its producer, The Lubow Agency, of Chicago, has given blanket permission for posting to any Web site.

"Water cure" doctor dies. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body's Many Cries for Water, has died of pneumonia at the age of 73. The book, which stated that dehydration was the major cause of disease, was widely promoted through talk shows and health-food stores and totaled more than 30 printings. Batmanghelidj said he was a British medical school graduate, but he did not appear to have been licensed to practice medicine in the United States. He also claimed to have done more than 20 years of "full-time research" and to have achieved worldwide acclaim because of his findings. However, his only scientific journal publications were a 3-page editorial and a copy of 1987 lecture, both of which claimed success in treating ulcers but contained no supporting data. [Barrett S. Some notes on Dr. Batmanghelidj's silly "water cure," Quackwatch, Nov 20, 2004]

FTC issues "Consumer Alert" on free and low-cost prescription drug programs. The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to ignore Internet solicitations that charge a fee (up to $195) for information on free or low-cost prescription drug programs. Many prescription drug companies are willing to assist people who lack prescription drug coverage, can't afford to pay for medication out-of-pocket, or have exhausted their insurance's annual allowance. However, the programs have strict qualification standards and can be located without charge on the Helping Patients Web site.

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This page was posted on November 23, 2004.