Consumer Health Digest #10-20

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 20, 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.

Gary Null sued. A man who developed nausea, vomiting, mood swings, headaches, severe cramping, pain, and fatigue after using Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal has filed suit against Gary Null, his company, and the suppliers of the product. The complaint states that the situation arose because the product was produced with 1,000 times as much vitamin D as it should have and Null failed to warn consumers when he discovered this. Null is also suing his own supplier. In April, he alleged that (a) he nearly died as a result of using the product himself and (b) he and his company had suffered great harm to their reputation. Two weeks later, however, he filed an amended complaint that omitted all of the allegations related to his own alleged illness. Null is one of the nation's leading promoters of dubious treatment for serious disease. He has refused to answer several questions about his credentials. It should be interesting to see what the legal proceedings uncover.

Null antivaccination suit dismissed. In October 2009, Gary Null and several others sued the FDA in an effort to stop distribution of the 2009 monovalent H1N1-A ("swine flu") vaccines. The complaint was based on the assertion that New York State had mandated the vaccine for healthcare workers who see patients in hospitals. One month later, after the FDA had filed a motion to dismiss, the court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and dismissed the case.

"Colon cleanser" marketers sued. An Arizona man who used Ultimate Cleanse is suing the manufacturer and the store where he bought the product. The complaint charged that the product caused perforation of his colon that required hospitalization and two operations. The product contains cascara sagrada, a harsh laxative that in 2002 was banned as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs. It can still be legally sold as a dietary supplement, but there is no logical reason to use it. The surgeon who treated the man believes that the perforation was caused by the cascara segrada content of the product. Infomercial Watch warns against the use of Dual Action Cleanse, a similar product.

FDA orders 15 companies to stop marketing ear candles. The FDA has notified 15 companies that ear candles are unapproved medical devices that cannot be legally marketed in interstate commerce. The recipients were King Cone International; Indian Mountain Center; Bobalee Originals Manufacturing; International Ear Candle, LLC; Home Remedies Solutions; Harmony Cone; A..J.'s Candles Inc; Wholistic Health Solutions; Wally's Natural Products Inc.; Body Tools; Health, Wealth, & Happiness; White Egret, Inc.; Brennan & McCoy; Amasha; Unisource; and Herbs, Heirlooms and Homebrew. Some had promoted the products for use in children as well as adults. "Ear candling," also known as coning, refers to various procedures that involve placing a cone-shaped device in the ear canal and supposedly extracting earwax and other impurities with the help of smoke or a burning wick. The procedures supposedly create a low-level vacuum that draws wax and other debris out of the ear canal. Studies have demonstrated that candles do not remove ear wax but may leave leave candle wax in the canal. Burns and blockage of the canal have been reported. [Roazen L. Why ear candling is not a good idea. Quackwatch May 12, 2010] Despite government actions, ear candles are still widely available through the Internet and at health-food stores.

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This page was posted on May 20, 2010.