Consumer Health Digest #05-24
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 14, 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.
Commission recommends charging Dr. Jayant Patel with murder. The Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry has recommended that Jayant M. Patel, M.D., be charged with making false representations, fraud, negligence, and either murder or manslaughter and that extradition proceedings be started. [Morris A and others. Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry. Interim report of 10 June, 2005] The Commission was appointed to investigate allegations that Patel had killed or seriously harmed more than 100 patients and that hospital and government officials had 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 the two-year period when he served as surgical director at Bundaberg Hospital in Queensland, Australia. Patel completed medical school in India but took his surgical training in New York and practiced for about 12 years in Oregon before registering to practice in Queensland. After hearing testimony for nine days, the Commission has concluded that Patel committed fraud during the registration process by failing to to disclose that the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners had disciplined him for gross or repeated acts of negligence and unprofessional conduct and restricted his ability to perform several types of operations. Transcripts of the Commission's hearings and other relevant documents are posted to its Web site.
FTC hits HGH infomercial. Two Florida businesses and their owners have agreed to pay up to $20 million in consumer redress—the largest monetary judgment ever obtained in an Federal Trade Commission health fraud case—to settle charges that they deceptively claimed that their pills and sprays would increase consumers’ human growth hormone (HGH) levels and provide anti-aging benefits such as weight loss and increased mental function. In addition, the Commission has issued warning letters to more than 90 Internet marketers making similar claims. [FTC targets bogus anti-aging claims for pills and sprays promising human growth hormone benefits. FTC news release, June 9, 2005]
The defendants named in the FTC’s complaint are Great American Products, Inc. (GAP) and Physician’s Choice, Inc. (PCI), both of Destim, Florida; Stephan Karian; and Michael Teplitsky, M.D. (aka Michael Teplisky, M.D.). Karian is an officer of both corporations. Teplitsky, who is described as PCI's medical director, formulated PCI’s product line, appears in its advertising, and owns half of PCI. According to the FTC, the defendants’ advertising deceptively claimed that the dietary supplements Ultimate HGH and Super HGH Booster and the homeopathic sublingual sprays Master HGH and Super HGH will (a) significantly increase growth hormone levels, (b) provide the benefits purportedly shown in various studies involving prescription-only HGH injections, (c) reduce fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure (d) increase muscle mass, and (e) improve cognitive, immune, and sexual function. The FTC also challenged deceptive claims that Fat Blaster and Super Carbo Blocker cause weight loss by suppressing appetite, reducing the conversion of carbohydrates to fats, and enhancing metabolism; and that Ultimate Wild Oregano Oil and Super Wild Oregano Oil can prevent colds and flu and, when taken orally, treat and relieve bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms. Under the settlement agreement:
- Future claims for any dietary supplement, food, drug, or service purporting to provide health-related benefits, must be true, non-misleading, and substantiated.
- The defendants are prohibited from using a format which could mislead the consumers into thinking that an infomercial is an ordinary television program.
- The defendants must pay $6.5 million immediately and set up a redress program that would provide up to $13.5 million to eligible consumers who request a refund. (Consumers who are eligible for redress will be contacted by the FTC within the next 45 days.)
- Avalanche clauses provide for a total potential liability of $80 million—an amount representing total product sales—if it is discovered that the defendants misrepresented their financial status.
Teplitsky practices what he calls complementary and alternative medicine in Brooklyn, New York and hosts a radio show. New York State's licensing authorities disciplined him in 1995 for sexual misconduct and in 2003 for negligence, incompetence, ordering unwarranted treatment, and failure to maintain adequate records. The 2003 case involved eight patients for whom he inappropriately prescribed HGH. Quackwatch has further information about Teplitsky.
Chiropractor reprimanded for unexplained care. The Wisconsin Chiropractic Examining Board has reprimanded Gregory M. Blau, D.C. for failing to keep adequate records. The patient apparently consulted Blau for back pain in 1998 and was followed for nearly three years without a recorded treatment plan or re-evaluation. The board noted that Blau's treatment notes for 35 of 37 office visits for one patient consisted of the same four sentences in the same order that asserted findings at four vertebrae in at least three areas of the spine. During the board's proceedings, Blau admitted that (a) he used six standard daily notes for all patients, (b) the standard notes differed only by which four vertebrae were listed, and (c) his office assistant entered one of the six form notes in the computerized patient file when he told her which form number to use. The board fined him $4,750, ordered him to take courses on chiropractic documentation, and indicated that his patient records might be subject to quarterly inspections for a period of one year. Several companies market systems that enable chiropractors to create chart notes by entering code numbers into a computer, but disciplinary actions of this type are uncommon. The full text of the board's order is posted on Chirobase.
National fluoridation symposium program announced. The American Dental Association (ADA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are jointly sponsoring a symposium to celebrate the 60th anniversary of water fluoridation. The scientific sessions will be held on July 14 and 15 in Chicago. The program, which features researchers, dental professionals, public health officials, community leaders, and legislators, is open to the public. However, registration must be completed by July 1. Details and a registration form are posted on the ADA Web site.
This page was posted on June 14, 2005.