Consumer Health Digest #06-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 6, 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.

Fifth state enacts "fire-safe" cigarette law. New Hampshire is joining four other states in requiring that all cigarettes sold within its borders extinguish themselves if left to burn. About 800 people are killed annually in the United States by fires started by unattended cigarettes. Such fires typically occur when a smoker falls asleep while smoking or drops a lit cigarette into an upholstered chair, where it can smolder for hours before causing a fire. In 2004, New York became the first state to require unattended cigarettes to be self-extinguishing. A similar Vermont law took effect this year. A California law will take effect next year, an Illinois law is scheduled to start in 2008, and New Hampshire's law will take effect on Oct. 1, 2007. Cigarette manufacturers argue there should be a single, nationwide standard for fire-safe cigarettes rather than various state regulations, but Congress has not passed legislation. The New Hampshire law would automatically be repealed if federal standards are enacted. Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health have prepared an investigative report which concludes that all cigarettes can and should be self-extinguishing. [Albert HR and others. "Fire Safer" Cigarettes: The Effect of the New York State Cigarette Fire Safety Standard on Ignition Propensity, Smoke Toxicity and the Consumer Market. January 2005] A Canadian law has been in effect since October 1, 2005.

Don Lapre gets another warning letter. Don Lapre, a fast-talking huckster who has marketed get-rich-quick schemes for more than a decade, has received a second warning letter from the FDA. During the past few years, Lapre has marketed "The Greatest Vitamin in the World" through "independent distributors" who are promised large payments for persuading people to buy the products. [Quill T, Barrett S. Be wary of Don Lapre, Doug Grant, and "The Greatest Vitamin in the World." Quackwatch, Feb 10, 2004] In July 2005, the FDA ordered Lapre to stop claiming that his vitamin product can prevent or cure a long list of diseases. Lapre made superficial changes in his product descriptions, but the FDA has warned that consumer testimonials and other statements on his Web site continue to indicate that the product is intended to treat, cure, prevent, or mitigate diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases. [Walker SJ. Warning letter to Don Lapre, April 7, 2006]

James Shortt, M.D., convicted, delicensed, and sued twice. In March 2006, James Michael Shortt, M.D., who practiced "longevity medicine" in Greenville, South Carolina, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. Press reports indicate that some of the recipients were professional football players. Shortt's plea agreement states that over a six-year period, he unlawfully conspired with others to distribute and dispense testosterone, stanozolol, nandrolone, fluoxymesterone and oxymetholone. Based on this admission, the South Carolina Board revoked his license and fined him $10,000, the largest fine it is permitted to impose. Short's criminal indictment and plea agreement are posted on Casewatch. Shortt is also being sued by the survivors of two patients he treated with hydrogen peroxide. One had multiple sclerosis. The other had prostate cancer.

New book on homeopathy in America. Haworth Press has published an excellent book that traces the history of homeopathy in America. Written by historian John S. Haller, Ph.D, the book explains how homeopathy gained a wide following despite its lack of rationality or effectiveness. It also details why its educational system collapsed. Softcover copies of The History of Homeopathy in America: The Academic Years, 1820-1935 are available at a discount from Amazon Books.

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This page was posted on June 9, 2006.