Consumer Health Digest #08-07

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 12, 2008

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.

British agency concludes that Rodale book ads were misleading. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Rodale International to not repeat two mail-order ads and to seek its advice before advertising again. The adjudication involved claims that Extraordinary Healing (by Art Brownstein, M.D.) and The Gluten Connection (by Shari Lieberman, Ph.D.) would enable readers to "heal" serious diseases. The Extraordinary Healing ad claimed that "there's almost no illness that your healing system can't handle" and that "even diseases that are considered incurable can be overcome when you tap into your body's healing system." The other ad claimed that "after all the drugs and mainstream treatments have failed," Lieberman's "natural solutions" had been able to help "as many as 85% of patients who had all but given up." Although Rodale supplied a long list of case studies and other references, ASA concluded that: (a) this evidence was not sufficient to support the extraordinary claims in either the ads or the books, and (b) the ads contained "irresponsible" statements that medical treatment would not be necessary. The ASA's approach is tougher than that of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. In the United States, books are permitted to make false health claims as long as they are not part of a product marketing scheme. The FTC will consider intervening only if an ad falsely portrays what a book says, and not whether the book's advice is valid. The full text of the ASA adjudication has been posted to Casewatch.

FTC attacks another weight-loss fake. The FTC has filed suit against California-based Medlab, Inc., Pinnacle Holdings, Inc., Metabolic Research Associates, Inc., U.S.A. Health, Inc., and their principal, L. Scott Holmes, charging them with falsely claiming that Zyladex Plus, Questral AC, Questral AC Fat Killer Plus, Rapid Loss 245, and Rapid Loss Rx cause users to lose weight without dieting or exercise. [FTC sues sellers of weight loss pills for false advertising. FTC news release, Feb 8, 2008] The pills contain a proprietary blend of kola nut, citrus aurantium (bitter orange), cornflower, bladderwrack, green tea extract, white willow bark, eleutherococcus senticosis, l-tyrosine, yerba mate, and kelp. Since 2005 they have marketed them with statements such as “Lose up to 15 pounds a week,” “Not Even Total Starvation Can Slim You Down and Firm You Up This Fast - This Safe!,” and “No Dieting, No Exercise.” They have also claimed that clinical studies prove those claims and that their product causes permanent or long-term weight loss. Although the FTC urges the nation's media to reject ads that violate its "red flag" guidelines (impossible claims), the public is exposed to an endless parade of such ads, many of which are extremely profitable to the marketers, the media that convey the claims, and the credit card companies that process the orders. Public protection against weight-loss fakes cannot be achieved unless laws are passed to deter advertising outlets and credit card companies from facilitating their sale.

New site notes dangers of uncritical thinking. The newly created what's the harm? Web site summarizes and links to hundreds of reports of people who have been killed, injured, or swindled by faulty beliefs. More than 60 topics are covered.

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