Consumer Health Digest #06-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 16, 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.

Major mail-order scammers sign FTC consent agreement. The marketers of several heavily advertised weight-loss products have agreed to pay $3 million in penalties and to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims or misrepresenting studies in the future. Under the FTC’s final order, the primary company, Utah-based Basic Research, will pay $3 million on behalf of all six companies and three individuals charged in this case: Basic Research, LLC; A.G. Waterhouse, LLC; Klein Becker USA, LLC; NutraSport, LLC; Sovage Dermalogic Laboratories, LLC; BAN LLC; Dennis Gay; Daniel B. Mowrey (also doing business as American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory); and Mitchell K. Friedlander. According to the FTC’s complaint, the ads for three skin gels—Tummy Flattening Gel, Cutting Gel, and Dermalin APg—claimed they melted away fat wherever applied, including a user’s thighs, tummy, even a double chin. Ads for Leptoprin and Anorex, two ephedrine pills, claimed they caused weight loss of more than 20 pounds. The advertising for PediaLean fiber pills for overweight children claimed the pills caused substantial weight loss. The FTC alleged the marketers lacked a reasonable basis to back up these claims. In addition, the FTC alleged the ads falsely claimed that clinical testing proved those claims for four of the challenged products and misrepresented their spokesperson as a medical doctor. [Major weight-loss marketers pay $3 million: FTC charged they could not back up claims for six weight-loss products for adults and kids. FTC news release, May 11, 2006] The case is especially significant because Friedlander is one of the most egregious mail-order health scammers of all time. During the early 1980s, doing business as the Robertson-Taylor Company and at least six other companies, he took in tens of millions of dollars for fraudulent weight-loss aids, hair restorers, sexual stimulants, impotence cures, arthritis remedies, and other vitamin products. [Shearing the suckers. Consumer Reports Feb 1986, pp 87-92] The U.S. Postal Service ended these promotions with a series of cease-and-desist orders.

New medical search engine. Internet Health Pilot, which is Quackwatch's guide to about 250 recommended health-related sites, has added a search engine that can search these sites grouped by topic. The engine was developed and is maintained as a a public service by Findica Inc., which provides customizable search engine technology for consumer and industry web sites and portals.

FDA rejects green tea/cardiovascular health claim. The FDA has concluded that there is no credible scientific evidence that drinking green tea or green tea extract reduce the risk of heart disease. In rejecting a petition that sought to allow tea labels to make that claim, the agency said its review included 105 articles publications submitted with the petition but found "no credible evidence" to support the requested claims. [Schneeman B. Letter to Stanley F. Tarka, M.D. May 9, 2006]

Delicensed chiropractor facing probable prison term. Former chiropractor Markell D. Boulis of Presto, Pennsylvania has pled guilty to criminal charges in two cases. In the first case, filed in Ohio, he and a company he ran (Practice Solutions) pled guilty to a charge of making false statements related to health care matters that resulted in improper payments of about $820,000 from insurance programs. The criminal information in the case states that Boulis and the company gave seminars that taught chiropractors how to "back bill" for services that had been included within the treatment programs for which they had already been paid. Boulis ran two additional companies that prepared and submitted the claims. In the second case, filed in Pennsylvania, Boulis admitted defrauding Medicare and failing to report taxable 2002 income of $205,214, for which he should have paid a tax of $65,713. According to the indictment, Boulis lost his license to practice chiropractic in Pennsylvania due to a conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine in Cobb County, Georgia. These events plus failure to repay his federally backed student loan led to his exclusion from Medicare. However, in 2002, Boulis started the Hemorrhoid Relief Center, Inc. in Pittsburgh and used a straw party under his control to bill Medicare for services not rendered. The plea agreements bound Boulis to make restitution and face combined penalties of up to $750,000 and 20 years in prison. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published additional information about Boulis and several associated schemers. [Ove T. Jailed ex-chiropractor targeted in insurance fraud investigation. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan 24, 2006]

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This page was posted on May 18, 2006.