Consumer Health Digest #06-07

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 14, 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.

Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals hit with more charges. The Federal Trade Commission has charged Steve Warshak, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, Inc., LifeKey, Inc., Warner Health Care, Inc., and Wagner Nutraceuticals, Inc. with making false claims and improperly billing consumers for Enzyte and other dietary supplements. According to the complaint, the defendants offered “free” samples but enrolled consumers in a program that automatically shipped them more pills and billed them for those shipments, even though most consumers never agreed to participate in the program. The FTC also charged that two of the products, which were marketed as treatments for female sexual dysfunction (Avlimil) and night vision problems (Rogisen), do not live up to the advertising claims. [FTC charges sellers of Avlimil, Rogisen, and other dietary supplements. FTC news release, Feb 2, 2006] In 2004, the FDA warned Warshak to stop making illegal claims for three products. [Heppe CA. Warning letter to Steve Warshak. Oct 4, 2004] Last month four former executives (Greg Cossman, Susan Cossman, Shelly Kinmon and James Teegarden Jr.) pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges, admitting they duped thousands of consumers by billing them for more than $100 million worth of sex aids that were never ordered. [McNair J. 4 Berkeley execs plead guilty. Cincinnati Enquirer, Feb 16, 2006] Civil lawsuits and cases filed by state attorneys general are also pending.

Dubious credentialing program sued for trademark infringement. The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Jean-Noel Prade and his American Universities Admission Program (AUAP), which purports to evaluate the academic credentials of foreign students to help them gain admission to American universities. The suit (a) charges that AUAP's actions "perpetuate the fraudulent actions of . . . diploma mills and foreign students by giving credence to their credentials with false or suspect evaluations and accreditations" and (b) demands that AUAP stop all actions which falsely suggest that it is somehow associated or connected with AACRAO. Other documents in the case are posted on the AACRAO Web site.

Unlicensed naturopath pleads guilty to homicide and other charges. Brian Edward O'Connell, has pled guilty to theft (a class four felony), perjury (a class four felony), criminally negligent homicide (a class five felony), illegal practice of medicine (a class two misdemeanor), and third degree assault (a class 1 misdemeanor). O'Connell was accused of having injected a hydrogen peroxide solution into a 19-year-old patient who had Ewing's sarcoma. The procedure is believed to have hastened his death. He also injected this solution into a 17-year-old female, which caused her to go into cardiac arrest. Another patient of O'Connell's had terminal liver cancer and was told by O'Connell that a "black salve" compound would pull the cancer out of his body. Instead it created open, bleeding wounds that continued until his death. O'Connell also used a procedure called "photo luminescence", in which he would withdraw the blood of a patient, run it through ultraviolet light and then inject it back into their body. The guilty plea took place after it came to light that O'Connell had misrepresented his credentials in a 1999 trial in front of the same judge. When told that prosecutors planned to file an additional perjury charge, O'Connell decided to plea guilty instead of going through with the trial. Sentencing is scheduled for March 27th. [O'Connell pleads guilty during jury selection. News release, Feb 1, 2006, Office of the District Attorney of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties]

Chiropractor gives up Iowa license. Harry W. Hargett, D.C., of Spirit Lake, Iowa has agreed to stop practicing chiropractic to settle charges that he falsely portrayed himself as a medical doctor. Last year, the Iowa Board of Chiropractic Examiners charged him with including the initials "M.D." after his signature on documents at least twice. In one case, the board said, Hargett was signing a form for the Iowa Department of Human Services. In the other, he signed a prescription drug order for a muscle relaxant and delivered samples of the drug to a patient's home. The order form had "M.D." printed after the blank space for the doctor's name. Hargett got his Iowa license in 1974. In a recent interview, he said that (a) he'd attended a medical school in the Dominican Republic that had a program catering to chiropractors, podiatrists, and similar professionals who wanted to become medical doctors; (b) after finishing classes, he learned that the program had lost its international accreditation; and (c) he is moving to Arizona, where he is still licensed. [Leys T. Chiropractor agrees to quit practice: A state board says Harry Hargett indicated to others that he was a medical doctor. Des Moines Register, Feb 14, 2006] The charges and settlement agreement are posted on Chirobase.

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This page was revised on February 16, 2006.