Consumer Health Digest #08-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 7, 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.

Trudeau facing $5 million penalty and 3-year infomercial ban. A federal judge has banned Kevin Trudeau from infomercials in which he has an interest for three years and ordered him to pay $5,173,000 in profits from his book, "The Weight Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want You to Know About." The ruling confirms an earlier contempt finding against Trudeau—the second time he has been found in contempt of court in the past four years. In several infomercials, Trudeau claimed that the plan outlined in the book is easy to do, can be done at home, and ultimately allows readers to eat whatever they want. However, the book actually describes a complex plan that requires severe dieting, daily injections of a prescription drug that consumers cannot easily get, and lifelong dietary restrictions. In a 2004 order settling FTC charges that he had falsely claimed that his calcium product could cure cancer and other serious diseases, Trudeau was banned from using infomercials to sell any product, service, or program except for books and and other publications. Although he remained free to publish his opinions, the order specified that he must not misrepresent what is in the publications. In November 2007, the judge ruled that Trudeau had violated that narrow exemption and was in contempt of court. Trudeau is appealing the 2007 and 2008 rulings.

Autism "pseudo-board" launched. Practitioners of "biomedical" autism treatments have formed the American Medical Autism Board (AMAB), whose stated mission is "to promote safe, ethical, efficacious medical autism treatment to the public by maintaining high standards for the examination and certification of physician as autism medical specialists." The relevant treatments, none of which has been scientifically proven to be effective, include chelation therapy, dietary supplements, and various dietary approaches. AMAB is not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which is the recognized standard-setting organization for physician-certifying boards in the United States. AMAB is little more than an attempt by unscientific practitioners to make their credentials look better.

Alabama tightens school licensing rules. Alabama, which has been a haven for substandard schools, has implemented a new rule that will force many of them to shut down when their current state license expires. Private degree granting, post-secondary educational institutions must now be accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or be a legitimate candidate for accreditation. As of October 1, this requirement will apply to any degree-granting institution that applies for initial licensure or renewal. The most significant such school is Clayton College of Natural Health, a nonaccredited correspondence school that has issued thousands of dubious degrees in nutrition and naturopathy. Clayton's license expires on December 1, 2008.

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This page was posted on October 10, 2008.