Consumer Health Digest #07-41
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 23, 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.
Texas Medical Board criticizes "hormone allergy" treatment. The Texas Medical Board and Russell R. Roby, M.D., of Austin have entered into a four-year Agreed Order requiring him to (a) provide certain information to the public in all advertisements and print media, (b) have his practice monitored by another physician, (c) successfully complete courses in medical record-keeping program and ethics, (d) not treat any patient with thyroid therapy, (e) maintain a logbook for each patient whom he gives antigen injections, (f) report proposed and ongoing research studies, and (g) pay a $15,000 administrative penalty. The action was based on misleading advertising about “hormone neutralization therapy.”
Roby has an extensive history of disciplinary action. His California medical license was revoked for drug and alcohol abuse. During the 1980s, the Texas board placed him on probation for the same reason and added additional requirements after concluding that he had failed to maintain adequate records, reported inconclusive allergy tests as positive, and billed insurance companies for allergy treatments he had not performed. In 2004, he consented to an agreed order under which he was reprimanded for failing to obtain informed consent from a patient to whom he administered "dilute tetanus toxoid" injections to treat a bacterial infection. Allergy Watch has additional details about his activities.
Ad authority raps food allergy test claims. The British Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about sponsored link advertising by YORKTEST Laboratories Ltd of York, UK, which markets tests directly to consumers. The agency investigated whether the lab's FoodSCAN test (a) had been "clinically validated," (b) was reliable for detecting food intolerance, and (c) could lead to mistaken diagnoses. It concluded:
- The test, which measures IgG antibodies in the blood, should not be used as a sole diagnostic tool, but the ad implied that it would be sufficient.
- Although the test had been approved for consumer use, this approval did not constitute "clinical validation."
- The evidence submitted was not sufficiently robust to prove the efficacy of the tests for diagnosing food allergy or intolerance.
- Although the sponsored links did not refer to any specific medical condition, referring to "clinically validated" and "scientific expertise and reliability" in the context of a home testing kit could encourage consumers to self-diagnose symptoms without consulting a suitably qualified medical practitioner. [ASA Adjudication: YorkTEST Laboratories Ltd. Oct 24, 2007]
The proper way to assess a suspected food allergy or intolerance is to begin with a careful record of food intake and symptoms over a period of several weeks and then try eliminating the suspected foods. For additional information, see Quackwatch.
Phony"pain relief" tape buyers can get refunds. Smart Inventions, Inc. and Jon Nokes, have entered into a settlement agreement that will provide up to $2.5 million in consumer refunds to purchasers of the Biotape, an adhesive product that was falsely claimed to relieve pain when applied to the skin. In addition, a federal district court has ruled that Darrell Stoddard, the tape's inventor who appeared in a nationally televised infomercial, must give up the $86,000 he received from infomercial sales. The FTC had charged that all three defendants deceptively claimed that Biotape provided significant, permanent relief from severe pain and was superior to other pain-relief products. The infomercial claimed that Biotape was “a space age conductive mylar that connects the broken circuits that cause . . . pain.” The agency will contact consumers regarding refunds. [FTC gets money back for consumers who bought "pain relief" adhesive tape. FTC news release, Sept 18, 2007]
New book debunks sports supplements. David Lightsey, the exercise physiologist and nutritionist who heads the National Council Against Health Fraud's task force on ergogenic aids, has published his critical observations of the "sports nutrition" marketplace. His 222-page book, Muscles, Speed & Lies : What the Sport Supplement Industry Does Not Want Athletes or Consumers to Know, lists for $22.95, but discounted copies are available from Amazon Books resellers.
This page was revised on July 23, 2008.