Consumer Health Digest #08-08

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 19, 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.

Class action suit filed against Akavar diet pill scammers. A suit seeking class action status has been filed against Utah-based Basic Research, LLC; Dynakor Pharmacal, LLC; Western Holdings, LLC; Dennis Gay; Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D.; and Mitchell Friedlander. The complaint charges that defendants "engaged in a deliberate campaign of widespread fraud and deception" and racketeering by falsely claiming that Akavar 20/50 (an herbal concoction) could produce weight loss without dietary modification or increased exercise. Akavar 20/50 was also falsely claimed to have been "designed by a team of doctors working in a recognized university" and to have been validated by published research. Mowrey has been associated with herb-related schemes for more than 20 years. Friedlander is one of the most egregious mail-order health scammers of all time. During the early 1980s, doing business as the Robertson-Taylor Company and at least six other companies, he took in tens of millions of dollars for fraudulent weight-loss aids, hair restorers, sexual stimulants, impotence cures, arthritis remedies, and other vitamin products. [Shearing the suckers. Consumer Reports Feb 1986, pp 87-92] The U.S. Postal Service ended these promotions with a series of cease-and-desist orders. In 2006, Mowrey, Gay, Friedlander, and Basic Research settled FTC charges that they had falsely advertised six other products. [Major weight-loss marketers pay $3 million: FTC charged they could not back up claims for six weight-loss products for adults and kids. FTC news release, May 11, 2006] The claims for Akavar violate the FTC settlement agreement.

Chiropractors using "research project" to lure patients. Several chiropractic Web sites are now advertising for volunteers who will be offered a free evaluation and then invited—as paying patients—to "commit to a 24-visit cycle, and continue coming until they reach their maximum potential." The ads are part of a program offered by Research & Clinical Science (RCS), which has promised to tabulate data that will ultimately pinpoint "exactly what impact subluxations have on the body, and what benefits chiropractic might offer to people of various ages and health levels." RCS has promised chiropractors that its program will generate between 10 and 25 new patients a month and promote long-term wellness and compliance among existing patients. To join the program, chiropractors pay $7,384 in advance or up to $8,384 for an installment plan. In return, RCS provides the training, research technology, brochures, and other marketing materials needed to act as an "RCS Authorized Clinical Investigator." "Subluxation" is a nebulous term that most chiropractors use to describe the alleged spinal problems that they offer to treat. Dr. Stephen Barrett has concluded that because "subluxation" detection is not a valid health yardstick, most "research volunteers" are likely to be invited to waste time and money getting care they do not need. [Barrett S. Chiropractic "research" project is a marketing tool. Chirobase, Jan 28, 2008]

Major report concludes that amalgam fillings are safe. A European Commission committee has concluded that amalgam fillings pose no systemic health risks to humans and that no justification exists for removing fillings that are functioning properly. The committee's 71-page report is available for comment until February 22, after which it could be revised before final publication. [European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks. The safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users: Preliminary report. Nov 29, 2007]

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This page was posted on February 19, 2008.