Consumer Health Digest #06-06

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 7, 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.

Donsbach's clinic closed; victim files suit. The Mexican government has ordered the facility where Coretta Scott King died last week to shut down. In a press release, Health Secretary Francisco Vera Gonzalez said that Hospital Santa Monica was found to be doing surgery, x-ray procedures, and internal medicine without government authorization. The facility had passed a previous "inspection" last year, but massive publicity had caused the authorities to look again. [Feagans B, McKenna MAJ. Mexico cites risky practices at clinic. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb 4, 2006]. The clinic's founder and director, Kurt W. Donsbach, is an unlicensed chiropractor with a long history of illegal activity. [Barrett S. The shady activities of Kurt Donsbach. Quackwatch, Feb 1, 2006] On February 6, one of Hospital Santa Monica's former patients filed a lawsuit alleging that Donsbach had falsely claimed to be a medical doctor licensed in California and promised that his treatments would cure or abate the patient's kidney cancer. Instead, the patient became critically ill from a staph infection acquired at the facility. The suit document is posted on Casewatch. In a recent interview, Donsbach told a CNN producer that he sold the clinic two years ago and merely returns weekly to provide consultations. The clinic's Web site states that he personally monitors the progress of every patient.

Juice Plus+ marketing criticized. Quackwatch has updated its investigative report about National Safety Associates (NSA) and its flagship Juice Plus+ dietary supplements. The products are made by reducing fruit and vegetable juices to powders, a process that removes most of their fiber. Many distributors (a) advise people to use the products regardless of the adequacy of their diet; (b) use personal testimonials to promote the products; and (3) claim that NSA-sponsored research substantiates their use. However, the studies fail to justify widespread use because they do not compare the health outcome of people who took the products with that of similar people who did not. [Barrett S. Juice Plus: A critical look. Quackwatch, Jan 29, 2006] Experts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital have reached a similar conclusion:

While it is true that nutritional supplementation is important in maintaining health in many segments of the population, particularly the elderly, none of the scientific studies undertaken have sought to prove that Juice Plus+ is more effective or more bioavailable than other supplements. In addition, no studies exist to compare the physiologic effects of supplementation with Juice Plus+ and eating whole fresh fruits and vegetables. Juice Plus+ is distributed through a multi-tiered marketing scheme with exaggerated value and cost [Juice Plus. About Herbs database, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Web site, Aug 23, 2005]

Mitchell Ghen charged with unlicensed medical practice. The North Carolina Medical Board has charged Florida-based Mitchell J. Ghen, D.O. with practicing medicine without a North Carolina license. The Notice of Charges states that Ghen inactivated his North Carolina license in April 2004 but interpreted spinal ultrasound reports on behalf of patients who were treated by another doctor at First Choice Family Health Care in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The Notice also expressed serious doubts that the tests were needed or were medical useful. In 1993, the Florida's medical board charged Ghen with "gross or repeated malpractice or the failure to practice osteopathic medicine with that level of care, skill and treatment which is recognized by a reasonably prudent similar osteopathic physician as being acceptable under similar conditions and circumstances." The complaint stated that he had failed to obtain a timely pediatric consultation in the case of an 8-month-old infant with meningitis who developed severe brain damage. The case was settled with a consent agreement under which Ghen agreed to pay a $2,500 fine and undergo a practice review by an independent consultant. In 2003, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Ghen had stopped performing stem cell treatment on patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) after the FDA seized patient records from his Florida Institute of Health in Clearwater, Florida.

FTC reins in false ad creator. Chase Revel, who created false and misleading advertising copy for Gero Vita International’s herbal and dietary supplement products, has settled FTC charges against him by agreeing to post a $1 million performance bond before advertising, marketing, or selling any food, drug, dietary supplement, device, or health-related service. The settlement also includes payment of $27,500 for consumer redress. [Dietary supplement ad creator settles FTC charges: Now required to post a million-dollar performance bond. FTC news release, Jan 30, 2006] In 2003 and 2004, the FTC alleged that seven corporations, A. Glenn Braswell, Revel, and three other individuals deceptively marketed “Lung Support Formula,” “Antibetic Pancreas Tonic,” “G.H.3,” “Chitoplex,” and “Testerex.” Revel created the ads for three of these products and other not named in the complaint. He also is the subject of a 1994 stipulated order involving the marketing of pinhole eyeglasses. The other defendants settled their cases last year. [Barrett S. Be wary of Gero Vita, A. Glenn Braswell, and Braswell's 'Journal' of Longevity. Quackwatch Feb 7, 2006]

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This page was posted on February 7, 2006.