Consumer Health Digest #07-07

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 13, 2007

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.

Quixtar facing major class-action suit. Two former Quixtar distributors have filled a class-action suit charging that Quixtar and several of its high-level distributors with fraud and racketeering. The allegations of the complaint include:

Quixtar is a multilevel marketing (MLM) company founded in 1999 as the successor to Amway in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. It is privately owned by the families of Amway founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel through the Alticor holding company, which is also the parent of Amway. In 1979, the Federal Trade Commission concluded that Amway was not a pyramid scheme because it followed certain policies to ensure that its business was based primarily on the retail sale of products rather than on the sale of "business opportunities." The current suit alleges that although Quixtar still has these policies, it does not enforce them. The complaint and supporting documents are posted on Casewatch.

Connecticut Attorney General investigating Lyme disease treatment guidelines. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating whether the Infectious Diseases Society of America (ISDA)'s new guidelines for treating Lyme disease violate antitrust laws. The most recent IDSA guidelines for Lyme disease reflect a strong scientific consensus that that long-term antibiotic therapy is unjustified. But Blumenthal apparently thinks that limiting access to treatment and insurance reimbursement could be illegal. [Warner S. State official subpoenas infectious disease group. The Scientist, Feb 6, 2007]. The scientific medical community places heavy reliance on statements produced by expert panels. Blumenthal's misguided action could cause great damage by making health-care organizations afraid to criticize irrational methods.

New book debunks faith-healing claims. Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine, by Richard Sloan, Ph.D., looks clearly at flawed research and unsubstantiated claims that religious activities promote health. Sloan believes that religion may provide comfort during difficult times, but there is no compelling evidence that prayer can cure any ailment. Sloan also states that research dollars used to investigate alleged effect of religion on health would be better spent seeking real cures based on sound science.

New anti-spam tool for Web sites. OnlyMyEmail has posted an encoding tool that can be used free of charge to make it difficult or impossible for e-mail links posted on Web sites to be harvested for spam lists. Harvesting is done by bots that are similar to search engines in that they crawl the web looking for things that match their criteria. For address-harvesting, the criteria are generally things that will make a bit of text look like an email address (such as '@' and '.') Highly advanced bots might also look for things like 'at' or 'dot' as well as long strings of html entities. OnlyMyEmail's tool can convert an e-mail address to a javascript code that most bots can't harvest.

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