Consumer Health Digest #05-39
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 27, 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.
Congressman calls for reducing drug company profits to help disaster areas. U.S. Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-VT) has announced his opposition to a recently released budget plan by the Republican Leadership that would drastically cut health, education, and economic development programs in order to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. Instead, Sanders wants to bolster government health programs by reducing what they must pay for drugs. A key step, he believes, would be to repeal the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 provision that bars Medicare and other government programs from negotiating with companies for lower prices. He is also campaigning to enable importation of medicines from countries that cap drug prices and can sell legitimate medications to Americans for less than they would pay in this country. Sanders' Web site is highly critical of drug industry profits and the extent to which the industry is able to influence Congress.
CortiSlim/CortiStress marketers hit for $4.5 million penalty. California-based Pinnacle Marketing Concepts, Inc. and its president, Thomas F. Cheng, and Utah-based Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D., have agreed to disgorge a total of $4.5 million in cash and other assets to settle FTC charges stemming from their roles in the marketing of CortiSlim and CortiStress, In its complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants made false or unsubstantiated product claims and used deceptively formatted infomercials in pitching the dietary supplements. Litigation continues against three other defendants who were part of the scheme. The FTC’s complaint, filed last years, charged that CortiSlim was marketed with false or unsubstantiated claims that it would cause rapid, substantial, and permanent weight loss in all users and that CortiStress would reduce the risk of, or prevent, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The settlement agreement also prohibits the defendants from making unsubstantiated claims in the future about any dietary supplement, food, drug, cosmetic, or device. [Three Cortislim defendants to give up $4.5 million in cash and other assets: FTC’s litigation continues against four remaining defendants. FTC news release, Sept 21, 2005]
Suit against Atkins estate permitted to go forward. The New York County Supreme Court has upheld the right to sue the estate of the late Dr. Robert C. Atkins for improperly treating a woman for breast cancer. The suit, filed by Carol Rubick before her death in 2003, charged that Atkins had advised her against pursuing standard treatment and promised that treatment with "Ukraine" and other "alternative" treatments would cure her. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that Rubick had signed an "informed consent" form under which she had assumed all risks for undergoing the treatment. However, the court ruled that blanket releases from medical negligence are generally regarded as against public policy and that the plaintiff was entitled to proceed with her case. The ruling is posted on Casewatch.
Acupuncture found ineffective for stroke rehabilitation. A double-blind clinical trial of stroke patients has found no difference between acupuncture and sham acupuncture in their ability to perform daily activities of living or in their health-related quality of life. The study involved 116 patients who received 12 treatment sessions during a 2-week period. [Park J and others. Acupuncture for subacute stroke rehabilitation. Archives of Internal Medicine 165:2026-2031, 2005]
Study suggests that "ephedra-free" diet pills are not risk-free. Researchers at the University of California - San Francisco have found that two weight-loss supplements promoted as ephedra-free and safe for dieters caused increased heart rate among healthy people, and could have harmful health effects in some people. The research examined the effects on blood pressure and heart rate of two dietary products containing bitter orange extract—a substance that has replaced ephedra in many weight-loss products since the FDA banned it because of concerns about serious health effects. The study involved 10 healthy adults given Advantra Z, Xenadrine EFX, or a placebo. Single doses of both products increased heart rate by an average of 11 to 16 beats per minute over baseline, which would be the equivalent of an 18% increase if the baseline rate is 80 beats per minute. In addition, Xenadrine EFX, which contains caffeine in addition to bitter orange, significantly increased blood pressure by 7 to 12% (9-10 mm Hg). The researchers concluded that the cardiovascular stimulant actions of Xenadrine EFX appear to be similar to banned ephedra products. Haller CA and others. Hemodynamic effects of ephedra-free weight-loss supplements in humans. American Journal of Medicine 118:998-1003, 2005]
AIDS kills child of prominent HIV denialist. The danger of denying that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the causal agent of AIDS has been spotlighted by the sudden death of 3-year-old Eliza Jane Maggiore of Van Nuys, California, during a bout of AIDS-related pneumonia. Eliza’s mother, Christine Maggiore, who is HIV-positive, runs Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a nonprofit organization which falsely proclaims that (a) most of the AIDS information the public receives is based on unsubstantiated assumptions, unfounded estimates, and improbable predictions and (b) the symptoms associated with AIDS are treatable with “non-toxic, immune enhancing therapies.” Detection and medical management of infected pregnant women have dramatically reduced the reported incidence of HIV/AIDS in children under age 13 from 952 in 1992 to only 59 in 2003. But according to the Los Angeles Times, Maggiore refused treatment for herself, delivered Eliza Jane at home, breast-fed the child, and never had her tested for HIV. [Ornstein C, Costello D. A mother's denial, a daughter's death. Los Angeles Times, Sept 24, 2005]
This page was posted on September 28, 2005.