Consumer Health Digest #07-29

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 31, 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.

Study finds young smokers can get hooked very quickly. A 4-year study has found that a diminished capacity to resist smoking cigarettes developed rapidly among 217 sixth-grade students who inhaled cigarette smoke. The researchers found that such "loss of autonomy" developed in 10% within 2 days after their first cigarette, 25% within 30 days, and half by the time they were smoking 7 cigarettes a month. The study also found that among the 83 inhalers those who developed dependence—as defined by the Tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)—half did so by the time they were smoking only 46 cigarettes a month. [DiFranza JR and others. Symptoms of tobacco dependence after brief intermittent use: The development and assessment of nicotine dependence in Youth–2 Study. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 161:704-710, 2007] The full text of the study is available online.

Canadian government updates thimerosal statement. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has responded to public concern about the use of thimerosal in vaccines. [National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Thimerosal: Updated statement. Canada Communicable Disease Report 33(ACS-6), July 1, 2007] The report concludes:

The weight of evidence now available . . . refutes any link between thimerosal and autism. Therefore, NACI concludes that there is no reason for vaccine providers or other health care professionals who may counsel individuals regarding immunization to raise any concerns about exposure to thimerosal.

Kevin Trudeau's is hawking another "secret." Kevin Trudeau, the infomercial peddler whose book Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About became a best seller, is marketing a similarly hyped book called The Weight-Loss Secret "They" Don't Want You to Know About. The book claims that "an absolute cure for obesity was discovered almost fifty years ago" but was "suppressed" by the AMA, the FDA, and "other medical establishments throughout the world." He further claims that until now, "this miracle weight loss breakthrough has been hidden from the public so that drug companies can make billions of dollars selling their expensive drug treatments and surgical procedures for obesity." The alleged cure consists of injections of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) plus 50 to 60 required and recommended do's and don'ts. HCG is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Albert T. Simeons, a British-born physician, contended that HCG injections would enable dieters to subsist comfortably on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. He claimed that HCG would mobilize stored fat; suppress appetite; and redistribute fat from the waist, hips, and thighs. However, scientific studies demonstrated that the injections didn't cause weight loss and regulatory actions by the FTC and FDA have curbed their use in the United States. [Barrett S. HCG worthless as weight-loss aid. Diet Scam Watch, April 23, 2007]

Dubious allergy product manufacturer disciplined. In September 2006, the British General Medical Council (GMC) reprimanded Dr. Leonard M. McEwen for soliciting patients to support McEwen Laboratories, a company owned by himself and three family members. The GMC Fitness to Practice Panel concluded that McEwen had "breached the confidence of patients" and that his fundraising activities were "inappropriate and unprofessional" because they "exploited the vulnerability of patients." The GMC ordered McEwen to have his practice monitored for one year to demonstrate that he respected patient confidentiality and did not exhibit any conflict of interest between professional and business activities. McEwen Laboratories produced the products used in Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), a dubious treatment for food allergies and intolerances. His solicitation, which asked for minimum donations of £5000, said that production of EPD would cease if adequate funds could not be raised. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has prohibited the importation of EPD products since 2002.

Water purifier vendor accused of using phony tests. The Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has accused the Emerald Coast Water Authority LLC (doing business as Avian Environmental Services) of violating Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices by using scare tactics during home inspections to trick consumers into buying its water systems. The Attorney General's complaint alleges:

The Attorney General’s Office has been concerned about Avian since 2005, but efforts to resolve the allegations through consumer reimbursements have not been successful. The lawsuit, which also names the company’s president, Robert A. Madden, and manager Don A. Madden, Jr., calls for Avian to immediately cease business operations and issue refunds to Florida consumers who purchased various products from the company. [Panhandle water system company sued for deceptive practices: Company allegedly faked water test results to gain sales. Florida Attorney General news release, July 19, 2007]

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This page was revised on August 2, 2007.