Consumer Health Digest #06-04

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 24, 2006

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.

Zinc nasal spray marketers settle class-action lawsuit. Matrixx Initiatives Inc., of Phoenix, Arizona has agreed to settle a consolidated product liability suit by people who alleged that its Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Spray, which contains zinc gluconate, had caused loss or decrease of their senses of smell and taste. (As of January 18th there were 49 different lawsuits pending that involved about 400 individuals.) The agreement called for payment of $12 million to fund awards to about 340 of the plaintiffs. The company said that it expected that about 40% of the settlement will be covered by insurance. The settlement does not include 22 plaintiffs who used Zicam's nasal swab product and 39 plaintiffs in 32 of the suits pending in courts outside of Arizona. The company denies being at fault and does not mention any risk in the product information on its Zicam Web site. The settlement agreement is posted on Casewatch.

Eight people indicted in diploma mill scheme. Dixie Ellen Randock, Steven Karl Randock, Sr., Blake Allan Carlson, Heidi Kae Lorhan, Amy Leann Hensley, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, and Kenneth Wade Pearson are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The 40-page indictment states that they used the Internet to market thousands of bogus high-school diplomas, college and graduate-level degrees, and related documents that purchasers could use to seek employment and/or H1B Visas to enter the United states. The fictitious "schools" included "Saint Regis University," "Robertstown University," "James Monroe University," James Monroe University High School,” and Trinity Christian School,” none of which had a legitimate faculty, offered legitimate academic services, required course work, or were accredited by a recognized agency. The documents cost from $399 to $2,454. The Randocks are also charged with conspiring to launder $1,026,874.80 as a result of the diploma mill scheme. Pearson was subsequently indicted on child-pornography charges. [Diploma mill webmaster indicted on child-porn charges. Associated Press, Jan 25, 2006]

Kevin Trudeau company has unsatisfactory BBB rating. The Chicago Better Business Bureau has given Kevin Trudeau's Shop America an "unsatisfactory" rating based on its failure to resolve or respond to about 70 consumer complaints. The BBB report also states:

Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record . . . due to a pattern of complaints. Consumers allege dissatisfaction with the Natural Cures book and/or being solicited to purchase information from the company website that is not included in the book as advertised.

The Bureau processed a total of 441 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total, 283 were closed in the last year.

The book to which this refers, Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, is being marketed with false claims that (a) drugs do not cure any disease, (b) there are natural cures for virtually every disease, and (c) drug companies and the government are conspiring to keep this information from the public.

Illinois stops dubious heart screenings of student athletes. Illinois authorities have sued a woman who sold heart screenings for student athletes but lacked the medical background to interpret the results. The action, filed in Cook County Court on December 20, 2005, names Lindsay Apostolas (a/k/a Lindsey Hecimovich and d/b/a Heart Care Services, Inc.) and Heart Care Services, Inc. According to the lawsuit:

The complaint charges the defendants with one count of violating the Illinois Medical Practice Act for the unauthorized practice of medicine and one count of violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for falsely representing that they were qualified to diagnose the echocardiograms. The lawsuit seeks an injunction, restitution to consumers, a civil penalty of $50,000, and additional penalties of $50,000 for each violation found to have been committed with the intent to defraud. [Madigan, Martinez act against company peddling heart screenings to children, not licensed to read results. Illinois Attorney General press release, Dec 23, 2005] The defendants' now-defunct Web site stated that the test would reduce sudden death in young athletes. However, the prevailing medical opinion is that screening people without symptoms has not led to decreased risk of sudden death. [Population screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) - a review of the evidence. National Screening Committee, UK, 2003]

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This page was posted on January 26, 2006.