Consumer Health Digest #05-34

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 23, 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.

Autistic 5-year-old dies during chelation. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has reported that a 5-year-old boy went into cardiac arrest and died during chelation therapy for alleged lead and mercury toxicity. [Hasch M. Autistic boy, 5, dies after disputed therapy. Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Aug 26, 2005] Chelation therapy for autism is a fraud. The state police and county coroner are investigating the boy's death.

New report calls obesity "epidemic." Trust for America's Health (TFAH) has concluded that nearly 119 million American adults (65% of the population) are overweight or obese and that government policies are falling far short of weight-reduction goals. Its 92-page report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, recommends:

TFAH is a nonprofit organization "dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority."

FTC snuffs "Smoke Away." The marketers of “Smoke Away” have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceptively claimed the product would allow smokers to quit smoking quickly, easily, permanently, and without nicotine cravings or other side effects. The agency also charged that a medical doctor and a chiropractor who endorsed the product did not properly use their expertise. The defendants were Emerson Direct, Inc. (d/b/a the Council on Natural Health) of Naples, Florida; the corporation’s owner Michael J. Connors, also of Naples, Florida; Thomas De Blasio, M.D., of Manalapan, New Jersey; and Sherry Bresnahan, D.C., of Algonquin, Illinois. The product, which was falsely claimed to be more effective than nicotine-replacement drugs, included various of combinations of vitamins, herbs, and other ingredients. The challenged claims were made  in a national television infomercial, 60- and 120-second national television ads, 60-second radio spots, and on Web sites. [Marketers of "Smoke Away" pay $1.3 million to settle FTC charges. FTC news release, Aug 23, 2005]

U.S. "Do-Not-Call" list tops 100 million. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that the National Do Not Call Registry has topped 100 million phone numbers. This is a significant milestone for the Registry, which opened for business just over two years ago.

Medical impostor receives jail sentence. From May 2001 until May 2003, Michael Andrew misrepresented himself as a surgeon and graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He served as chief executive officer of Meadows Diagnostic Imaging Center in Henderson, Nevada and supervised at least ten contrast x-ray procedures while pretending to be a physician. (During such procedures, a dye is injected into the patient to highlight the areas that are being studied. A physician's presence is necessary in case the dye causes anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.) Michael had received a bachelor’s degree from the now-defunct Hamilton University, a nonaccredited online school based in Wyoming, and was enrolled in St. Luke’s School of Medicine, a correspondence school that has since been shut down by Liberian government authorities. In June 2005, Michael pleaded guilty to one felony count of attempt to practice medicine without a license. In August he was sentenced to serve 120 days in the Clark County Detention Center to be followed by 4 years of intensive supervision probation.

British regulators nix fiber supplement ad. The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has objected to a television advertisement for Senokot Hi-Fibre Lemon/Orange issued by Reckitt Benckiser. The advertisement implied that the products were useful “to top up” consumers’ intake of fiber in order to stay regular if, because of a hectic lifestyle, it was difficult or inconvenient to obtain the recommended daily intake or through their daily diet. The MHRA concluded that the ad was illegal because the products were approved for relieving constipation, maintaining regularity in patients who need a high-fiber regimen, or providing extra fiber for patients with hemorrhoids who need it to maintain bowel function. The MHRA stated that the products are not a food supplement and are not indicated for maintaining regularity per se in the general healthy population. [Investigation of complaints about advertising: Senokot Hi-Fibre television advert. MHRA news release, May 23, 2005] The concept that a busy lifestyle makes it difficult to eat properly is a common marketing ploy used to promote vitamins in the United States.

Picketing of Christian Science church announced. Former Christian Scientists and others concerned about religion-based medical neglect plan to picket the Christian Science (CS) headquarters church in Boston during its morning service on Sunday, October 2nd. Christian Science contends that illness is an illusion caused by faulty beliefs and that prayer heals by replacing bad thoughts with good ones. In November 2003, 7-yr-old Eben Tryon of Norwood, died from untreated diabetes. His mother is listed in the CS directory of practitioners. The protest will call attention to the fact that the local authorities have failed to file charges even though the Massachusetts child-abuse law does not have a religious exemption. The event will be led by pediatrician Seth Asser, M.D., co-author of a 1998 report documenting the deaths of 172 children whose parents had failed to seek appropriate medical intervention. [Asser SM, Swan R. Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect. Pediatrics 101:625-629, 1998] To sign up or get further information, phone (401) 595-5239 or write to .

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This page was posted on August 24, 2005.