Consumer Health Digest #05-36
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 6, 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.
Drugstore.com sues Dr. Andrew Weil. Drugstore.com, the largest online pharmacy, is suing Andrew Weil, M.D. and Weil Wellness LLC for breach of a contract under which Drugstore.com would be the exclusive distributor of Weil's branded products and online "Vitamin Advisor" program. In return, the contract called for "honorarium" payments totaling $1.6 million to Weil and minimum royalty payments totaling $12.4 million to Weil Wellness from September 2003 through June 2008. Drugstore.com announced their affiliation in June 2003, but the suit charges that Weil failed to "make commercially reasonable efforts" to promote what was covered by the agreement. Weil's"Vitamin Advisor" uses an online questionnaire to promote "personalized products" said to be "based on your specific health concerns." However, virtually everyone who takes the test is encouraged to spend $40 or more per month for supplements that are unnecessary, inappropriate, overpriced, and/or irrationally formulated. The suit document is posted on Casewatch.
FDA women's health director resigns in protest. Susan F. Wood, M.D. has loudly criticized the Bush Administration and the FDA Commissioner for blocking the availability of emergency contraception (the "morning after pill") without a prescription. [Senior FDA official steps down over announcement to stall Plan B OTC approval. Reproductive Health Technologies project news release, Aug 31, 2005] In a widely circulated letter, Wood stated:
I regret to tell you that I am leaving the FDA, and will no longer be serving as the Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the FDA Office of Women's Health. The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health. I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health policy decisions. I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled. I therefore have submitted my resignation effective today.
Emergency contraception has been available without a prescription in most of Europe for several years. " A Los Angeles Times editorial called the FDA Commissioner's decision "absurd."
Tanning salon operators failing to give proper warnings. A Consumer Reports survey of 296 tanning facilities in 12 U.S. cities has found widespread evidence of failure to warn customers of possible risks. [New dangers of indoor tanning. Consumer Reports 70(2):30-33, 2005] The survey found:
- Federal rules say beginners should tan no more than three times a week, but 75% of the surveyed employees said callers could come as often as desired, even daily.
- Federal rules require tanners to use protective goggles, but 6% of operators said they would not require them.
- When asked whether tanning raises the risk of skin cancer, 27% said no and 38% said possibly.
- When asked whether ultraviolet radiation is a major cause of wrinkles, 18% said no and 68% said possibly.
Apple cider vinegar tablets criticized. Researchers at the University of Arkansas who tested eight apple cider vinegar products have found considerable variability in tablet size, acid content, and label claims. The variation was so great that the researchers question whether apple cider vinegar was actually an ingredient of the tested products. The study was triggered by the case of a 48-year-old woman who developed severe pain and difficulty swallowing after a tablet became lodged in her throat. Although imaging tests were normal two weeks later, the woman continued to have pain and difficulty swallowing six months after the event. Apple cider vinegar has for many years been promoted with unsubstantiated claims that it is effective for weight-control. [Hill LL and others. Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 105:1141-1144, 2005]
Quackwatch debunks Clayton College of Natural Health. Quackwatch has posted a critical report on the Clayton College of Natural Health (CCNH), a nonaccredited correspondence school that claims to have had more than 25,000 graduates since 1980. Nonaccredited schools offering health-related instruction almost always advocate unscientific concepts. Moreover, is not possible to learn to properly care for patients without lengthy supervised experience with patients, which most nonaccredited schools, including Clayton, do not offer. Clayton states that it is accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board. However, these are not recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, which means that "accreditation" by them is meaningless. Quackwatch's report also notes that one student received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. diplomas dated on the same day. Clayton's best-known "graduates" include:
- Hulda Clark, an unlicensed naturopath who claims to cure cancer and other serious diseases with herbs and a low-voltage electrical current.
- Robert O. Young, whose "pH Miracle" books claim that health and weight control depend primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid environment that can be optimized by eating certain foods.
- Gillian McKeith, who "believes that most disease can be eradicated with the proper application of a natural and nutritional approach." Her Web site has described her as "the world's top nutritionist."
CCNH assumed its current name in 1997 when the Clayton School of Natural Healing and American Holistic College of Nutrition were combined. [Barrett S. Clayton College of Natural Health: Be wary of the school and its graduates. Quackwatch, Sept 7, 2005]
This page was posted on September 7, 2005.