Consumer Health Digest #05-12

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 22, 2005

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.

Oral chelation seller ignores FDA warning. In January 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered a marketer of "Angioprim" to stop making illegal claims that the product can reverse heart disease; control arthritis and kidney disease; improve health for those with diabetes, Alzheimer's and osteoporosis; provide relief for osteoarthritis, gallstones, kidney stones; reduce insulin usage for diabetes; and benefit those with Alzheimer's and Parkinson disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, senile dementia, and other immune disorders. [Baca JR. Warning letter to Thomas Snee, Jan 4, 2005] Although more than two months have passed since the warning was sent,'s home page still states that the product is effective against all of these conditions. Moreover, one claim, if followed, could result in the user's death by delaying necessary medical care:

Has your Doctor said you need surgery or loaded you up with medications that make you sick and tired. Worse yet, have you been given the kiss of death and told you, there is no cure for your congestive heart. Don't believe them, You can restore circulation to blocked veins and arteries without surgery and regain lost health.

"Oral chelation" products contain various mixtures of vitamins, minerals, and/or amino acids. There is no scientific evidence or logical reason to believe that any of them is effective against any of the above-mentioned diseases. In July 1985, the FDA began a well-publicized campaign that included regulatory letters to at least 24 manufacturers of "oral chelation" products. This effort decreased the visibility of such products for several years, but some remained available and the Internet has triggered a massive resurgence.

FTC dismisses spurious complaint against ConsumerLab. The Federal Trade Commission has dismissed a complaint against ConsumerLab by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors. Since 1996, ConsumerLab has been evaluating whether herbal and dietary supplement products contain the ingredients stated on their labels. So far, it has found problems with about 25% of the 1200+ products it has tested. Its findings are available on its Web site, which offers summaries free of charge and detailed reports for a nominal fee. In January 2005, CRN distributed a press release publicizing a letter that it simultaneously sent to the FTC. The release and letter included false allegations that (a) ConsumerLab's "entire business model represents an an egregious form of consumer fraud and deception," (b) companies are pressured into paying a fee to avoid potential negative consequences of having their products tested, and (c) ConsumerLab's programs and reports are likely to mislead consumers into believing that it operates in the public interest and cannot be influenced by any outside party.

Sleep study marketers indicted for fraud. A California diagnostic testing company and its two top corporate officers have been indicted on federal charges of health care fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. The indictment states that SDI Future Health, Todd Stuart Kaplan, and Jack Brunk operated clinics in at least eleven states that offered heart monitoring tests and sleep studies (to test for sleep apnea). The 136-count indictment charges that between January 1999 and January 2002, the defendants defrauded Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Sierra Health, and other health-care programs by obtaining reimbursement for unnecessary tests and billing for services not performed. The fees ranged from $145 and $3,995 for the heart studies and $1,775 to $5,350 for the sleep studies. The defendants were also charged with paying kickbacks to doctors who referred patients. The remuneration included payments disguised as medical director fees and gifts of expensive sports memorabilia. During the relevant time frame, SDI processed more than 15,000 patients at a cost to third-party payers of approximately $22 million. [Diagnostic laboratory indicted for fraud & illegal kickbacks to Nevada physicians. USDOJ news release, March 3, 2005]

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This page was posted on March 22, 2005.