Consumer Health Digest #10-50
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 16, 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.
Long-time quackery promoters convicted. In separate and unrelated cases, two long-time quackery promoters have pleaded guilty to violating federal drug laws.
- Kurt W. Donsbach, 75, pleaded guilty to 13 felony charges: five counts of practicing medicine without a license, five counts of selling/distributing misbranded drugs, and one count each of of attempted grand theft, grand theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also admitted that he personally inflicted a great bodily injury on one of the victims related to the unlicensed practice of medicine. The Court agreed to sentence Donsbach to probation, which will include restrictions against practicing medicine and distributing dietary supplements, and possible custody in the county jail. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 4, 2011.
- Robert W. Bradford, 79, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. In his plea, Bradford admitted that he and several codefendants made more than $400,000 selling a microscope they claimed could be used to diagnose Lyme Disease and a drug treatment plan they claimed could cure it. Bradford founded a company that distributed marketing materials mischaracterizing Lyme disease as the "Plague of the 21st Century" and claiming that more than 50% of chronically ill people may be suffering from Lyme Disease. Bradford's sentencing is scheduled for January 11, 2011.
Donsbach and Bradford have had similar careers. At various times, both have (a) conducted businesses in Southern California, (b) operated questionable clinics in Mexico, (c) used nonaccredited credentials, (d) conducted educational programs, (e) marketed questionable dietary supplements and drugs, (f) been the target of both civil and criminal actions, (g) issued many publications, and (h) headed politically aggressive groups that tried to weaken government regulatory power.
"Psychic" charged with fraud. In March, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sean David Morton and three corporate entities he operated with engaging in a multi-million dollar offering fraud. [SEC charges nationally known psychic in multi-million dollar offering fraud. SEC litigation release, March 4, 2010] The SEC complaint charges:
- Beginning in 2006, Morton solicited individuals to invest in three unregistered companies he and his wife Melissa Morton controlled under the umbrella of Delphi Associates Investment Group: (1) Vajra Productions, LLC, (2) 27 Investments, LLC, and (3) Magic Eight Ball Distributing, Inc., .
- Morton claimed he would use his psychic expertise to provide investment guidance to his investing team and falsely touted his historical success in psychically predicting the various rises and falls of the market.
- Morton further claimed that he would use the pooled funds to trade in foreign currencies and distribute the trading profits among the investors.
- Morton lied to investors about his past successes and key aspects of the Delphi Group, for which he fraudulently raised more than $6 million from more than 100 investors.
- Morton and/or Melissa diverted some of the investor funds, including at least $240,000 to their own nonprofit religious organization, Prophecy Research Institute.
In addition to seminars, Morton's Web site markets a "holy tea" claimed to gently cleanse the digestive tract, detoxify the body, reduce the amount of stored fat in the body (particularly in the abdomen).
Dental x-ray use challenged. The New York Times has reported allegations that most dentists are using outmoded equipment that exposes patients to unnecessary radiation and that orthodontists and other specialists are embracing a newer device that emits significantly more radiation than conventional methods. Designed for dental offices, the device, called a cone-beam CT scanner, provides brilliant 3-D images of the teeth, roots, jaw and skull. Proponents say that the device enables dentists to work with more precision, but critics say that this claim has not been validated by research. [Bogdanich W, McGinty JC. Radiation worries for children in dentists' chairs. New York Times, Nov 22, 2010] The American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology and the American Association of Endodontist have issued a joint statement saying that cone-beam CT "must not be used routinely for endodontic diagnosis or for screening purposes in the absence of clinical signs and symptoms."
"Integrative medicine" promoters hoaxed. A British medical professor has reported how the organizers of an international conference on integrative medicine invited him to present his views on a "new version of reflexology" that he claimed to have developed. In June, iin response to a request for papers, Professor John C. McLachan of Durham University wrote that his method relied on a representation of a homunculus (inverted fetus) over the area of the buttocks that, when needled (as in acupuncture) or sucked (as in cupping), produced responses that were more therapeutic than those of conventional reflexology. Despite the obvious absurdity, the conference's "science committee" invited McLachan to lecture for 20 minutes about his findings.
McLachan concluded: "So called integrative medicine should not be used as a way of smuggling alternative practices into rational medicine by way of lowered standards of critical thinking. Failure to detect an obvious hoax is not an encouraging sign." [McLachan J. Integrative medicine and the point of credulity. British Medical Journal 341:c6979, 2010] The full text of McLachan's report is online.
This page was revised on December 17, 2010.