Consumer Health Digest #07-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 15, 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.

Chelation therapist charged with killing four patients. The Texas Medical Board has charged Kenneth W. O'Neal, M.D. with violating the standard of care in connection the deaths of four patients to whom he had administered chelation therapy and/or vitamin infusions known as a "Myers cocktail." In October 2005, the board temporarily suspended his license after learning what had happened to three of the patients. O'Neal became medical director of the Texas Institute of Functional Medicines in 2002 but is no longer listed on its Web site.

More alleged"sex enhancers" found to contain drug analogs. The FDA is warning consumers not to use "True Man" or "Energy Max" products. Both contain undeclared ingredients with structures similar to those in prescription drugs approved for treating erectile dysfunction. FDA chemical analysis has revealed that Energy Max contains an analog of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. True Man contains an analog of sildenafil or of vardenafil, the active ingredient in Levitra. These ingredients can interact with nitrates found in prescription drugs (such as nitroglycerin) and lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. Many men with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease take nitrates. [FDA issues health risk alert for 'True Man' and 'Energy Max' products]. FDA news release, May 10, 2007]

Mail-order fraud king dies. Almon Glenn Braswell (1943-2006), who probably conned more people and took in more money than any other mail-order health scammer in U.S. history, was found dead last October. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Braswell was the object of 140 federal enforcement actions and served a brief prison sentence for tax evasion and perjury charges developed during a mail-fraud investigation. But after his release he bounced back, grossed over $1 billion, and was even pardoned by President Clinton for his earlier crime. In the late 1990s, his formerly owned Gero Vita International distributed hundreds of millions of mail-order brochures and "journals" that generated more than $1 billion in product sales. Some of the products may have had some effectiveness (though they were overpriced), but most were promoted with misleading claims. [Barrett S. Be wary of Gero Vita, A. Glenn Braswell, and Braswell's 'Journal' of Longevity. Quackwatch, Jan 4, 2006] In 2004, after having pleaded guilty to tax evasion and paid more than $10 million in back taxes, penalties, and interest, Braswell was sentenced to 18 months in prison for tax evasion.

Thought field therapy exposé published. Monica Pignotti has described her 7-year experience as a leading practitioner, author, and teacher of thought field therapy (TFT). [Pignotti M. Thought field therapy: A former insider's experience. Research on Social Work Practice 17:392-407, 2007] TFT is based on the notion that acupressure points are related to "blockages of body energy" associated with physical and emotional illnesses. Proponents claim that finger-tapping along "acupuncture points" while focusing on problems or symptoms can cure a wide variety of problems by releasing the purported blockages. TFT's techniques include muscle-testing (a variation of applied kinesiology) and "voice technology," in which the practitioner analyzes patients' voices over the phone and determines where the patients should tap themselves. Pignotti's lengthy story describes (a) what initially interested her, (b) how she trained to TFT's highest level became part of its inner circle, and (c) what led to her ultimate disillusionment. Pignotti's Debunking Thought Field Therapy Web site contains additional information.

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This page was posted on May 14, 2007.