Consumer Health Digest #06-47
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 21, 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.
Report rips Save-A-Life Foundation and Dr. Henry Heimlich. WLS-TV (Channel 7), an ABC affiliate in Chicago, has uncovered misleading claims and deceptive credentials that raise doubts about the integrity of the Save-A-Life Foundation, an organization that teaches schoolchildren how to respond in emergencies. In a 2-part broadcast, the investigators concluded:
- The organization was founded by Carol Spizzirri, who pays herself $120,000 per year plus a $42,000 expense account.
- Spizzirri claims to have a nursing degree and be a registered nurse, but state officials say that neither claim is true.
- The college at which she claimed to have received a nursing degree did not award one to her.
- She claims to have worked as a transplant nurse, but hospital officials said she was a patient assistant (functionally similar to a candy striper).
- Despite her misrepresentations, the foundation has received millions of dollars in government funds and corporate donations.
- The foundation's medical advisor, Henry Heimlich, M.D., promotes his well-known "maneuver" for the management of choking, drowning, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. The American Heart Association no longer recommends it as a first-line defense against choking, and experts have concluded that the other proposed uses are ineffective and potentially dangerous.
- The Heimlich Institute, which exists to promote Heimlich and his maneuver, is located at the Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati. Despite its impressive-sounding name, reporters found that the "institute" was merely a little-used office on the hospital's accounting floor. Nobody was in it, the phone was answered by a machine, and a nearby office occupant who was asked whether anyone used it replied that Heimlich visits "maybe once every two weeks."
Popular "nutritionist" ordered to stop marketing unregistered products. The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ordered McKeith Research Ltd, to stop marketing two of its products to the public. The agency's press release explained that claims made for the products and the presence of well-known herbal ingredients made both products "medicines" that are illegal to advertise without MHRA authorization. Wild Pink was said to help women with sexual desire, orgasmic function, lubrication, satisfaction, arousal, and "maintenance . . . before and after menstruation and through the change of life." Horny was claimed to help men with "maintaining erections, orgasmic pleasure, ejaculation and overall sexual satisfaction." The company is operated by Gillian McKeith, who is a television commentator and sees patients at her McKeith Research Centre in London, England. McKeith represents herself as a prominent researcher and nutrition expert with a masters and a Ph.D. degrees in Holistic Nutrition. However, these were obtained from a nonaccredited correspondence school and have no scientific standing. Quackwatch has additional information on her activities and credentials.
Dubious autism treatment provider may lose medical license. Alan Schwartz, M.D, who operates the Holistic Resource Center in Agoura Hills, California, has been charged with incompetence, gross and repeated negligence, and violating a previous probationary order. The Medical Board of California's accusation, filed April 13, 2006, includes the following details:
- In 1999, after concluding that Schwartz had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a patient, the Board placed him on 10 years' probation during which he was required to have a chaperone present whenever he examines or treats a male pediatric patient. However, despite repeated warnings, Schwartz did not adhere to this requirement.
- During 2003, in managing four pediatric patients, Schwartz failed to perform adequate evaluations; made unsubstantiated diagnoses that included autism and ADHD; and rendered treatments that were "an extreme departure from the standard of practice."
Quackery-related libel suit dropped. ConsumerLab has withdrawn its libel suit against the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade group that represents dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors. ConsumerLab.com offers a combination of free and subscription-based test reports about products (including herbs) sold as dietary supplements. In January 2005, CRN published a press release and a letter to the FTC that falsely alleged that (a) ConsumerLab.com's "entire business model represents an an egregious form of consumer fraud and deception" and (b) companies are pressured into paying a fee to avoid potential negative consequences of having their products tested. After the FTC dismissed CRN's complaint, ConsumerLab sued. Although a court denied a motion to dismiss the suit, the time and expense required made it impractical to pursue. As ConsumerLab President Tod Cooperman explained:
CRN’s legal tactics had forced ConsumerLab to divert an extraordinary amount of resources to the case. This created a dilemma for us: Was it more important to continue our work uninterrupted or to see justice prevail? For practical purposes, ConsumerLab’s position was already vindicated when the FTC found no reason to take action with respect to CRN’s complaint and again when the New York court rejected CRN’s attempt to dismiss the defamation suit. It was clear that continuing at full steam to test products and publish our reports for consumers was more important than eventually winning this case. We could not let CRN slow us down. We chose to drop the case.
A contract and related documents obtained during the discovery period showed that the press release was handled by Dezenhall Resources, an aggressive public relations firm that CRN had hired for a 3- or 4-month campaign that was expected to cost between $125,000 and $200,000.
This page was posted on October 25, 2006.