Consumer Health Digest #05-17

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 26, 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.

AB Energizer marketers agree to pay $2+ million penalty. The Federal Trade Commission has filed two proposed stipulated orders in federal court resolving charges that the marketers of AB Energizer, an electronic abdominal exercise belt, falsely advertised that using the device caused weight loss, inch loss, and well-defined “six-pack abs” without exercise. These orders are part of a global settlement resolving an FTC lawsuit and related actions brought by county and city prosecutors in California. The settlements call for payment of more than $2 million. Over $1.4 million of this amount will be for consumer redress. The balance will go to the California prosecutors for costs and civil penalties. The defendants are based in Southern California, with most located in San Diego. They include Electronic Products Distribution, L.L.C.; AB Energizer Products, Inc.; Abflex USA, Inc.; AB Energizer, L.L.C.; Thomas C. Nelson; Martin Van Der Hoeven; Douglas Gravink; and Gary Hewitt. The orders bar all of them from making the challenged claims for the AB Energizer or any similar device. The consumer redress total includes money from separate settlements between the California agencies and Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, and Target, which marketed the device. [FTC flexes its muscles in Ab Energizer Case: FTC and California get over $1.4 million for consumers. FTC news release, April 22, 2005]

N.C. chiropractor imprisoned for insurance fraud. Steven Ira Cohen, 53, who practiced in Greenville, North Carolina, has been sentenced to 28 months in prison plus three years of supervised release and has been ordered to pay $371,000 in restitution to four insurance companies. Last year, Cohen was indicted on 527 counts of health care fraud, 21 counts of mail fraud, two counts of obstruction and one count each of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and money laundering in connection with incidents between 1999 and 2002. The charges stem from insurance claims submitted for treatments that were never performed and from claims that used provider numbers of doctors who had not provided the services. In July 2004, Cohen pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and the other charges were dropped. [Karr A. Cohen gets 2 years, 4 months. The Daily Reflector, April 22, 2005]

Stephen Edelson "retires." Apparently in response to lawsuits and regulatory actions, Stephen B. Edelson, M.D., has closed his Edelson Center for Environmental and Preventive Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. The suits were brought by parents of autistic children that he improperly diagnosed as suffering from heavy metal toxicity and treated with chelation therapy. The first suit was settled in 2002 for $180,000, and the others were settled later for undisclosed sums. In 1995, the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners settled charges against Edelson with a consent agreement under which he was fined $5,000 and placed on two years' probation with a condition that he not perform chelation therapy except in documented (real) cases of heavy metal poisoning. In April 2004, the Board reprimanded Edelson, fined him $1,000, and placed him on 3 years' probation after concluding that he had been inappropriately self-medicating and had become addicted to benzodiazepine sleeping pills. In October 2004, Edelson posted a letter to his Web site stating:

Because I do not practice "standard medicine," it is easy for the FDA, the Georgia Medical Board, and patients who do not see immediate results, or the extent of the results we had hoped for, to attack me. All of this has taken a tremendous toll on me and my family. . . . I have begun the process of closing my clinic and transitioning into retirement.

Not long afterward, his Web site was shut down. Quackwatch has additional details with links to the documents.

Gerontology group issues anti-quackery book. The Gerontological Society of America has published "Anti-Aging Medicine: The Hype and the Reality," which contains 21 articles published during 2004 in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. The price is $20 postpaid. Additional details and ordering information are available on the society's Web site.

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This page was posted on April 26, 2005.