Consumer Health Digest #05-52

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 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.

FTC issues spam report. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a 116-page report about its efforts to curtail unsolicited (spam) e-mails. The report notes that since passage of the CAN-SPAM Act, spam volume has begun to level off and the amount reaching consumers’ inboxes has decreased due to enhanced anti-spam technologies deployed by Internet service providers. However, many spammers are using increasingly complex multi-layered business arrangements and typically hide their identities by providing false information to domain name registrars. The FTC remains concerned that much of the data in domain name registrars’ “Whois” databases are inaccurate and that registrars’ failure to take reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of information submitted by registrants continues to hamper law enforcement. The FTC hopes that Congress will pass the US Safe Web Act, which would significantly improve the FTC's ability to trace spammers and sellers whose operations are outside the borders of the United States. [Effectiveness and Enforcement of the CAN-SPAM Act: A Report to Congress. FTC, Dec 2005]

Tighter controls slash workers' comp payments to chiropractors and physical therapists. The California Worker's Compensation Institute (CWCI) has concluded that California Senate Bill 228 has sharply reduced the cost of chiropractic and physical therapy. SB 228, which took effect on January 1, 2004, states that employees shall be entitled to no more than 24 chiropractic and 24 physical therapy visits per industrial injury. The law was part of a 6-bill package intended to curb runaway costs. The CWCI study found that since January 2004, the average number of chiropractic visits per case has been about 50% lower and payments per chiropractic claim have been nearly nearly 60% lower than they were in 2002. For physical therapists, the average number of visits per claim dropped about 44% and the total cost per claim dropped about 48%. At the time implementation began, payments for physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation together comprised 37% of all California workers' compensation outpatient costs. [Swedlow S. The Utilization & Cost of Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Manipulation in California Workers’ Comp Following Implementation of Mandatory UR and 24-Visit Caps. California Worker's Compensation Institute, 2005]

"Anti-aging expert " convicted of income tax evasion. A federal jury has found Ward F. Dean, M.D., of Pensacola, Florida guilty of evading income taxes and attempting to interfere with the administration of the Internal Revenue Code. Immediately after the trial, the judge concluded that Dean was a flight risk and ordered him to remain in jail until his sentencing on February 28, 2006. According to the indictment, Dean had claimed no income for the years 1997 through 2002 even though he was paid approximately $1.3 million dollars and owed over $300,000 in taxes. The indictment also states that after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began reviewing his failure to report income, Dean told financial institutions and others that the IRS summons were phony and threatened to sue those who disclosed his records to the IRS. Dean's Web site states that in 1996, he encountered the theories of a leading "tax protestor" and concluded that the federal income tax was illegal. (The IRS and federal courts look very unfavorably at such claims.) Dean's Web site describes him as "a world-renowned expert in the anti-aging and life extension." He is also director of research and development for Vitamin Research Products, a company for which he focused on "innovative nutritional and pharmacological protocols designed to delay aging and ameliorate age-related diseases." The company's Web site contains many articles by Dean that contain unsubstantiated claims and link to products whose ingredients are discussed in the articles. [Barrett S. Ward Dean, M.D, convicted of income tax evasion. Quackwatch, Dec 25, 2005]

License of alleged cancer scammer suspended. The Georgia Composite State Board of Medical Examiners has suspended the license of Todata R. Shanthaveerappa, M.D. (also known as T.R. Shantha, M.D.), who was indicted for health care fraud and money laundering last week. Press reports indicate that he intends to plead not guilty but will stop treating patients. [Torpey B. Doctor's license suspended over cancer treatments. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dec 23, 2005] Quackwatch has additional information about his situation.

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This page was revised on December 29, 2005.