Consumer Health Digest #11-44

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 29, 2011

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.

British pharmacy chain withdraws homeopathic claims from shelves. Boots, a major UK pharmacy chain, has stopped displaying information about the purposes of the homeopathic products they sell. The action was taken after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) upheld a complaint that Boots's point-of-sale advertising contained prohibited information. This advertising, found in many stores, consisted of a book of flip cards that listed indications, symptoms, and homeopathic products. The MHRA ruled that the products were not licensed with indications because the MHRA's Simplified Rules Scheme for homeopathic products prohibits stating the purposes for which they can be used. [Boots told to stop making medical claims for pills with no active ingredient. The Nightingale Collaboration Web Site, December 2011] The MHRA's proposed policy document, Homeopathic medicines: Guidance for advertising, is posted on Homeowatch.

Blog examines whether pharmacists should sell homeopathic products. Scott Gavura, who operates Science-Based Pharmacy, is a Canadian pharmacist who believes that it is unethical for pharmacists to sell, promote, or encourage the sale or use of homeopathy. [Homeopathy: To sell or not to sell? Pharmacists weigh in, Nov 30, 2011] The posted comments from other pharmacists include:

Google Health closing. Google Health, which enabled users to post detailed medical records on password-protected pages, is shutting down. Microsoft Health Vault still offers this service free of charge and has arranged for easy online transfer for Google Health users. The stored information can include the patient's medical history, current medications, and hospital discharge summaries, as well as graphic images such as electrocardiograms and x-ray pictures. This information could prove handy in an emergency or when a traveler is admitted to a hospital far from home.

Alleged stem scammers charged. Three men have been arrested for their participation in a scheme to manufacture, distribute and sell to the public stem cells and stem cell procedures that were not FDA-approved: Francisco Morales, of Brownsville, Texas; Alberto Ramon, of Del Rio, Texas; and Vincent Dammai, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Lawrence Stowe, of Dallas, Texas, also charged in relation to this case, is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. The defendants allegedly conspired to commit mail fraud and unlawfully distributed stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. [Federal Indictments Lead to Arrests in Stem Cell Case, U.S. Attorney's Office news release, Dec 28, 2011] According to the indictments:

Last April, CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a hard-hitting undercover report about the defendants' activities. [21st century snake oil: "60 Minutes" cameras expose medical con men who prey on dying victims. CBS News, April 18, 2010] Two indictments are posted on Casewatch, one for Morales, Ramon, and Dammai, and the other for Stowe and Morales.

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This page was posted on December 29, 2011.