Consumer Health Digest #07-40

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 16, 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.

Compounding pharmacy indicted for illegal hormone sales. College Pharmacy, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, its owner (pharmacist Thomas Bader), a sales representative (Kevin Henry), and a sales representative (Bradley Blum) from a company in Houston, Texas, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally importing and distributing human growth hormone (HGH) from China. Federal laws restrict the use of HGH to treating growth-hormone deficiency and ot her conditions for which treatment has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The indictment charges that the defendants obtained Chinese-manufactured HGH that lacked FDA approval and repackaged and sold it to physicians throughout the United States. The College Pharmacy catalog identifies it as "one of the largest, most comprehensive compounding centers in North America." The company is one of several that supply nonstandard products to offbeat physicians who do chelation therapy, mesotherapy, and other dubious treatments. In 2005, it was fined $50,000 and placed on probation following complaints that its pharmacists had incorrectly dispensed medication. In response to the indictment, Colorado's pharmacy board has voted to initiate disciplinary action against Bader. [Nguyen K. Board calls for discipline of pharmacy. The Gazette, Aug 31, 2007]

Texas Medical Board blasts "toxic mold" guru. The Texas Medical Board has ordered Andrew William Campbell, M.D. to (a) undergo a 1-year suspension, (b) meet various educational requirements, and (c) pay an administrative penalty of $210,000 plus costs of $8,293.50. The order also said that if he satisfactorily complies with the these requirements, the board will place him on probation for 5 years, during which he must have a practice monitor, provide appropriate informed consent for nonstandard procedures, and undergo periodic monitoring of patient records. In 2004, the board accused him of mistreating seven patients and improperly billing their insurance companies. The first amended complaint accused him of (a) performing inadequate history and physical examinations, (b) ordering excessive and unnecessary laboratory tests, (c) failing to maintain records that were adequate to justify what he did, and (d) submitting insurance claims forms that were misleading and/or fraudulent. In 2006, the board filed a second amended complaint that provided more details about his patient care, stating that in each of these cases, he had "relied on junk science," ordered inappropriate tests, and improperly diagnosed "toxigenic mold exposure." The Administrative Law Judge's report provides additional details.

Campbell typically tells patients that they are suffering from allergic disorders related to "toxic mold" exposure. In 2001, at a hearing held by the Texas department of Insurance, he testified that his center was seeing 50 such patients per week. Additional information about Campbell's practices and fees have been revealed in a report by a Vaccine Court special master who denied a petition from a former patient who sought compensation for an alleged vaccine injury. The report indicates that Campbell charged the woman $12,123 for the first visit and about $47,000 more from 1999 through 2002 for about 16 more visits plus intravenous treatments.

Campbell has appealed the board's decision to his local district court, which stayed it until the appeal process is completed.

De-licensed Canadian doctor gets three-year prison sentence. Ravi Devgan, whose medical license was revoked in 2003 by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, has been sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding a family out of $30,000 for worthless treatments. Press reports indicate that he was arrested for administering sheep fetus injections to twin boys who were severely disabled with cerebral palsy. [Pazzano S. MD jailed over useless treatments. Toronto Sun, Oct 12, 2007] In 1993, Devgan was reprimanded for professional misconduct and fined $5,000. In 1996, he faced the criminal courts over the same matter and was convicted of defrauding the patient. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert listing Devgan as having prescribed Laetrile, Life Crystals, and other unapproved drugs whose importation has been banned by the FDA.

FTC attacks another spammer. At the FTC's request, a federal judge has ordered an international enterprise to stop distributing spam solicitations containing unsubstantiated claims that “HoodiaLife” and “HoodiaPlus” would cause significant weight loss and that “HGHLife” and “HGHPlus” contained a “natural human growth hormone enhancer” that would dramatically reverse the aging process. The FTC also charged that the operation violated the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act) by initiating commercial e-mails that contained false “from” addresses and deceptive subject lines and failing to provide an opt-out link or physical postal address. The action was taken against Spear Systems, Inc., Bruce Parker (Australia), Lisa Kimsey (Caldwell, Idaho), and Xavier Ratelle (Montreal), doing business as [FTC stops international spamming enterprise that sold bogus hoodia and human growth hormone pills: Agency brings first action under US SAFEWEB Act. FTC news release, Oct 10, 2007] Court documents state that since April 2006, credit card sales of the products generated over $940,000. The temporary restraining order also prohibits the defendants from transferring or maintaining any scheme-related assets outside of the United States.  

Spammers who pretend to send from real e-mail addresses can cause great harm to the real owners of these addresses. (When the spam messages are not deliverable, the owners of the hijacked addresses may receive thousands of "nondelivery" notices per day.)

Previous Issue || Next Issue

This page was posted on October 17, 2007.