Consumer Health Digest #08-17
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 22, 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.
Prince Charles asked to withdraw inaccurate publications. The London Times has published a letter from Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, and Simon Singh, a science writer, which asks Prince Charles and his Foundation for Integrated Health to recall two guides that promote "alternative medicine. [Henderson M. Prince of Wales's guide to alternative medicine 'inaccurate.' Times Online, April 17, 2008] One of the guides was funded by a £900,000 grant from the UK Department of Health. The letter states:
. . . The majority of alternative therapies appear to be clinically ineffective, and many are downright dangerous.
In light of this . . . we strongly advise that the Prince of Wales and the Foundation for Integrated Health withdraw the publications Complementary Health Care: A Guide for Patients and the Smallwood report. They both contain numerous misleading and inaccurate claims concerning the supposed benefits of alternative medicine. The nation cannot be served by promoting ineffective and sometimes dangerous alternative treatments.
British homeopathic advertiser criticized. The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a 5-point complaint against a homeopathic advertiser. [Adjudication: Forest Gate Homeopathic Practice. April 23, 2008] The advertiser had offered "treatment for complex and complicated ailments" which it claimed "had no side effects, hence was safe and beneficial for all." The ad also falsely suggested that the practitioner was a physician. Similar complaints against the advertiser were upheld in 2005 and 2006. The ASA warned the broadcaster (Channel S Plus Ltd.) that another failure to comply with its adjudications could place its broadcast license in jeopardy. Unlike their American counterparts, British broadcasters can be forced to comply with an advertising code.
Cancer scammer gets 171/2 year prison sentence. Arthur Vanmoor been sentenced to 210 months in prison for illegally marketing a phony cancer cure and other products. In December 2005, the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting the continued promotion, advertisement, production, shipment, and/or sale of “Cancer Control,” “Migraine Miracle,” “Flu Fighter,” and any other non-FDA-approved drugs in interstate commerce. When Vanmoor defied the order, the court found him in civil contempt and the United States indicted him for criminal contempt as well as conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, misbranding of drugs and the introduction of unapproved new drugs into interstate commerce. In August 2007, he was extradited to the United States from the Netherlands to stand trial and was convicted in January 2008. The evidence at trial revealed that he hired people to create and write content for cancercure.org, migrainemiracle.com and other Web sites to promote his products that he falsely claimed were FDA-approved drugs. He also arranged for the sites to contain fictitious testimonials plus promotional articles falsely claimed to have been written by doctors. [Arthur Vanmoor sentenced to 210 months in jail for selling fake cancer cure. USDOJ news release, April 11, 2008] The lengthy sentence may be the longest one ever issued for marketing quack products. This was the third time Vanmoor has been in trouble. According to a report in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Vanmoor was convicted twice in connection with his operation of an escort service that investigators determined was a prostitution scheme. In 2002, he pleaded "no contest" to two misdemeanor counts of solicitation of a prostitute and was fined $65,000 and placed on one year's probation. In 2004, he pleaded no contest to charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering and was ordered to pay $500,000 in fines and restitution and sentenced to 18 months in jail to be followed by deportation to the Netherlands. [Burstein J. Escort service owner sentenced. Sun Sentinal, July 27, 2004.
Supplement marketers indicted. Charles C. Thao, his wife Mai Lor, Shua G. Vang, Tony T. Pham, Tong B. Vang, and their companies (Nutrapha Research, LLC., Bio Nutrasource, LLC, and Techmedica Health, Inc.), have been charged with conspiring to defraud the FDA by marketing unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs; and impeding the FDA's lawful functions. Most are also charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. The 40-count indictment states:
- Thao represented himself as a board certified naturopath even though he had no accredited professional training.
- Thao and Lor, through Nutrapha Research and Bio Nutrasource, supplied dietary supplements to Pham and his business, Techmedica.
- Techmedica had Internet sales exceeding $16.6 million in 2005 and 2006.
- Pham distributed some of the supplements to Shua Vang, d/b/a Naturocare, which had Internet sales totaling $12,287.
- The defendants claimed that their products were as effective as prescription drugs against diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, gout, and high cholesterol.
- In 2005, after the FDA sent Pham a warning letter, he promised that Techmedica would comply with the law, but it did not so.
- The Web sites included fabricated medical endorsements and customer testimonials.
- The defendants used mirror image technology that displayed a "sanitized" version of its claims when accessed from computers they knew belonged to the FDA but contained illegal claims when accessed from computers that were not traceable to the FDA.
This page was revised on May 4, 2014.