Consumer Health Digest #05-22

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 31, 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.

Surgeon accused of extraordinary misconduct. The government of Queensland, Australia has appointed a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations that Jayant M. Patel, M.D., may have been responsible for serious harm to more than 100 patients and that hospital and government officials failed to intervene when notified that serious problems existed. Patel is suspected of botching operations, falsifying records, and failing to transfer critically ill patients to other facilities during a two-year period when he served as director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital, a public hospital in Queensland. Transcripts of the Commission's hearings and other relevant documents are being posted to its Web site.

Patel graduated from medical school in India but took his surgical training in the United States. In 1984, during his residency, the New York State Board for Professional Medical Conduct (BPMC) disciplined him for entering patient histories and physicals without examining patients, failing to maintain patient records, and harassing a patient for cooperating with the New York board’s investigation. The BPMC placed him on three years of probation and fined him on each charge. Patel nevertheless completed his surgical training and was able to obtain an Oregon medical license in 1989. He then practiced in Portland until 2001 when the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners disciplined him for gross or repeated acts of negligence and unprofessional conduct and restricted his ability to perform several types of operations. When the current scandal surfaced, he returned to Oregon, but the Oregon Board inactivated his license for failing to report that he had moved to Queensland.

FTC curbs "fact-blocker" claims. LLC, Jeffrey V. Kral, and Shawn P. Lyden have settled FTC charges by agreeing to pay $100,000 in consumer redress and to stop making unsubstantiated claims that that any weight-loss product: (a) causes rapid or substantial weight loss without the need for diet or exercise, or (b) causes substantial weight loss or eliminates fat or cellulite when rubbed into the skin. Such claims had been made in connection with gel thin, a topical gel, and Ultra LipoLean, a tablet purported to block the absorption of fat into the body. [Bogus weight-loss products do not work. FTC news release, May 31, 2005]

FTC halts sale of inaccurate HIV test kit. Seville Marketing, Ltd., and its principal, Gregory Stephen Wong, of British Columbia, Canada, have agreed to stop marketing “Discreet” HIV test kits to U.S. consumers unless the kit gets FDA approval. The FTC had filed suit last year after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the test was not reliable. [Defective HIV test kit marketer settles FTC charges: Kits advertised as 99.4% accurate had error rates of 59.3%. FTC news release, June 1, 2005]

Dubious sex-aid marketers facing class-action suit. A federal judge in Denver has tentatively granted class-action status in a lawsuit against marketers of alleged penis enlargement products. The suit was filed by Californian Jefferey Horton against Leading Edge Marketing Inc. of British Columbia, TechniPak LLC of Greeley, Colorado, and Advanced Botanicals Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and several others. Potential class members include an estimated 400,000 customers who purchased products sold by Leading Edge under the VigRx brand since June 2000. [Griffin G. Lawsuit over penis potions may become class action. May Denver Post, 2005] The ruling is tentative because the judge was concerned that because of the product's nature, many buyers of the product might not want to identify themselves. The judge will reexamine the situation in September to see how many people have joined the suit. The plaintiff's lawyers are James A. Jablonski, Brad Corsello, and David Seserman.

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This page was posted on May 31, 2005.