Consumer Health Digest #10-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 13, 2010

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

Value of diet for rheumatoid arthritis uncertain. A systematic review has concluded that the value of dietary strategies for rheumatoid arthritis is uncertain. [Smedlunds G and others. Effectiveness and safety of dietary interventions for rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110:727-735, 2010] Altogether, 366 patients were included in eight trials that examined the effects of vegan, Mediterranean,and elimination diets. The reviewers concluded the studies were too small to be definitive an≠d a relatively high drop-out rate might be evidence of potential adverse effects.
Telemarketing fraud claimed to help handicapped halted. An Arizona-based telemarketing operation that called itself “Helping Hands of Hope” has settled FTC charges that it conned consumers into buying household items such as light bulbs and trash bags that were priced substantially higher than at retail, by falsely promising the proceeds would benefit charities or the disabled. A court order settles the FTC’s charges against Helping Hands of Hope, Inc.; U.S. Blind Services, Inc.; Employment Opportunities of America, Inc.; Third Strike Employment, Inc.; and Robyn Mayhan, president of these companies. The defendants will be permanently barred from such fraudulent conduct and from calling consumers who have asked not to be called. The consent order imposes a judgment of $26.3 million against all of the defendants. The corporate defendants will turn over assets worth more than $60,000 in partial satisfaction of the judgment. The judgment against Mayhan has been suspended, based on her inability to pay, but she will be responsible for the full amount if she is later found to have misrepresented her financial condition. [Telemarketers barred from falsely telling consumers that proceeds from the sale of household goods will benefit charities or the disabled: Complaint brought as part of 2008's “Operation Tele-Phoney” law enforcement sweep. FTC news release, April 10, 2010]
Scraper Pro marketers agree to reduce unwanted robocalls. New York-based Multiplex Systems (MPS), which develops and licenses software that compiles telephone lists by searching the Internet, has agreed to upgrade its programs so that recipients who want no more calls will be removed from its calling system by pressing the designated "opt out" key. The company's "Scraper Pro" software can search the Internet for phone numbers on Web sites related to keywords that users choose. The resultant lists can then be uploaded to sites that broadcast up to 3,000 calls per minute for 1-2¢ per call. MCS's policy change came in response to a complaint from Dr. Stephen Barrett to the North Carolina Attorney General. [Barrett S. Scraper Pro and Phone Broadcast Club: How to become a major nuisance in two easy steps. Quackwatch, May 17, 2010]

Court upholds Autism Omnibus ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the decision of a Special Master that the family of William Yates Hazlehurst had presented no credible evidence that MMR vaccination had caused him to develop regressive autism. The case is part of the Autism Omnibus Proceeding in which more than 5,000 families who claim that vaccines caused their children to become autistic are seeking compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). In February 2009, Special Masters ruled in this case and two others selected to test how similar cases should be handled. The decisions completely debunked the alleged vaccine/autism connection and implied that the doctors who promote them are acting unethically. Autism-Watch has posted key findings and links to the hearing transcripts and decisions.

Previous Issue || Next Issue

This page was posted on May 11, 2010.