Consumer Health Digest #08-24

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 10, 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.

Congress urged to ban menthol as tobacco additive. Seven former federal health secretaries have signed a letter urging that menthol be banned as an ingredient in tobacco products. The pending Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act ((S.625, H.1108) would:

As now written, the bills would permit continued use of menthol, which is the most widely used flavoring and is especially popular among African American teens. The letter to Congress notes that menthol was excluded to appease Philip Morris, which markets the second-most popular menthol-containing brand (Marlboro Menthol).

St. John's wort found ineffective against ADHD. A study conducted at a naturopathic college has found that the active ingredient in St. John's wort did not improve the function or behavior of children with ADHD. The study involved 54 children ages 6 to 17, half of whom received hypericum abstract while the others received a placebo. The placebo group did better, but the difference was not statistically significant. [Weber W and others. Hypericum perforatum (St John's wort) for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 299:2633-2641, 2008]

Metabolife founder gets 6-month prison sentence. Michael J. Ellis, founder and former president of Metabolife International, has been sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. In November 2007, Ellis pled guilty to federal charges of lying to the FDA. Metabolife's ephedra-containing diet pills triggered thousands of complaints from customers who had experienced adverse effects. Yet in 1999, while the FDA was considering prohibitions, Ellis knowingly told the FDA that the company had a "claims free history." The FDA later banned ephedra as an ingredient in dietary supplements. With Metabolife 356 as its flagship product, the company became one of the largest retailers of products marketed as dietary supplements. Ellis's indictment, the FDA ban, hundreds of personal injury lawsuits, and falling sales due to adverse publicity led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.

Canadian Government warns against cancer scams. The Canadian Competition Bureau has launched Project False Hope to warn consumers against online cancer scams. Its first offering is an analysis of claims made for a fictitious "Natural Herbal Formula." Scrolling over the text of a page designed to look an advertisement produces pop-up bubbles that comment on the tactics that scammers use to hook people.

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This page was posted on June 13, 2008.