Consumer Health Digest #05-14

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 5, 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.

Mannatech sued for fraud and invasion of privacy. Mannatech, several of its officers, and a chiropractor who was a major distributor are being sued by the mother of a child who died of Tay-Sachs disease whose photograph has been used to promote Mannatech products. According to the complaint:

The suit alleges intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, invasion of privacy, and unfair competition. Mannatech is a multilevel company that sells what it calls "glyconutritional" products. The text of the lawsuit is posted on MLM Watch.

People's Medical Society (PMS) in major decline. The People's Medical Society's Web site and its tax returns from 1994 through 2003 suggest that the organization is nearly defunct. PMS was spawned in 1983 by the late Robert Rodale, the publisher of Prevention magazine, who hoped that it could empower consumers. During its early years, PMS helped defeat legislation intended to strengthen federal consumer protection laws. It also began publishing books and special reports that mixed good advice with unjustified attacks on the medical profession and support for unscientific methods. Publicity materials have described PMS as “the largest consumer health organization in America” and stated that it was run “by the people” and “for the people.” However, neither its officers nor its board members have been elected, and its activities and policies appear to have been determined solely by the group's president, Charles K. Inlander. PMS publications and press reports have stated that the group has ranged from 80,000 to 125,000 members. However, its tax reports suggest that the actual number ranged from about 7,500 to 10,500. PMS’s publications have described Inlander as “America’s foremost consumer health advocate,” and the like. Although he is occasionally quoted in the press, PMS itself appears to be nearly defunct. It hasn’t published a new book since 1998. Its Web site has not been updated for more than two years. It’s total annual income, which averaged $1.35 million (mostly from book sales) during the 1990s, was only $59,617 in 2003. [Barrett S. Steer clear of the People's Medical Society. Quackwatch, March 4, 2005]

"Dr." Robert O. Young lacks legitimate credentials. A recent e-mail response to a query addressed to the Web address of Robert O. Young, co-author of The Ph Miracle, indicated that he does not have a graduate degree from a school accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. According to the sender, Young's credentials include: "M.S. Nutrition" (1993); "D.Sc. Science" (1995); "Ph.D., Nutrition" (1997); and "N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor" (1999). All were issued by the American Holistic College of Nutrition in Birmingham Alabama, which is a nonaccredited correspondence school. Young claims that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid environment that can be optimized by eating certain foods. These claims are false. [Mirkin G. Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease Is Nonsense. Quackwatch, Feb 6, 2003] Young's Web site states that he "has been widely recognized as one of the top research scientists in the world," and his book states that he "has gained national recognition for his research into diabetes, cancer, leukemia, and AIDS." However, neither the e-mail message nor a Medline search for "Young RO" identifies any articles authored by him that were published in a recognized scientific journal.

In addition to writing, Young offers educational retreats that include a private blood cell analysis and "nutritional consultation" at his 45-acre estate in Valley Center, California. In 1996, under a plea bargain, Young pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted practice of medicine without a license and was promised that the charge would be dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for 18 months. [Herbalist in Alpine pleads guilty to reduced charge. Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Feb 5, 1996] Young claimed that he had looked at blood samples from two women and simply gave them nutritional advice. The blood test he advocates has no scientific validity. [Barrett S. Live blood cell analysis: Another gimmick to sell you something, Quackwatch, Feb 23, 2005]

Book blasts diploma mills. Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who headed the FBI's diploma-mill task force, and John Bear, a leading expert on distance learning schools, have teamed up to produce Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas. The book states that fueled by the Internet, more than 300 active degree mills are selling thousands of phony or unwarranted diplomas each week, including medical and law degrees. Some or the sellers require only payment; whereas others have minimal requirements, such as a short essay or book review. In addition to fascinating stories, the book includes lists of fake schools, deceptive marketing tactics, and recommendations for attacking the problem. Copies can be purchased for $12.92 plus shipping at Amazon Books or direct from the authors for $25 postpaid, which includes a CD with images plus a free e-mail newsletter subscription.

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This page was revised on April 6, 2005.