Consumer Health Digest #12-01

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 5, 2012

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.

FTC nails marketers of "colon cleanser" and acai berry pills. The Federal Trade Commission announced that an operation that marketed acai berry supplements, "colon cleansers," and other products using allegedly fraudulent free trial offers and phony endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray will pay $1.5 million as part of a settlement. The money will be made available for consumer refunds. The 2010 FTC complaint alleged that Graham D. Gibson, Michael A. McKenzy, and five companies they operated deceptively claimed that their Acai Pure supplement would cause rapid and substantial weight loss and that their Colotox colon cleanser would prevent colon cancer. Also, despite offering a "free" trial for a nominal fee and full refunds upon request, the defendants repeatedly made unauthorized charges to consumers' bank accounts and made it all but impossible to avoid paying full price for the products, typically $39.95 to $59.95. The settlement order also prohibits the defendants from making unsubstantiated health or weight-loss claims. [Internet marketers of acai berry weight-loss pills and "colon cleansers" to pay $1.5 million to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising and unfair billing. FTC news release, Jan 9, 2012] A new FTC Consumer Alert explains in detail how consumers can guard against deceptive "free trial" offers. However, the a prudent strategy is to never buy pills or potions that are promoted in infomercials.

Classic fluoridation study reprinted. The 1960 report, Classification and Appraisal of Objections to Fluoridation has been posted to the Dental Watch Web site. The 85-page boooklet, developed by a team of students and professors at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, classifies and debunks more than 200 false and misleading allegations about toxicity, interference with commercial activities, alternative delivery methods, interference with human rights, expense, problems of engineering control, ineffectiveness, and other matters. Many of the allegations are still repeated today.

Chiropractic old-timers hospitalized with strokes. Sid E. Williams, D.C. and Reginald ("Reggie") Gold have reportedly been hospitalized with strokes. Williams founded and served as president of Life College of Chiropractic. Gold serves on the faculty of three chiropractic colleges. Both held offices in the International Chiropractors Association and taught courses on how to persuade people to get their spines checked and adjusted throughout their lifetime to keep them healthy. Williams taught that "Medicine is very effective in its place; however, it is a simple fact that it is becoming obsolete. The theory of medicine is false." Gold said: "If you were to come to my office, I wouldn't want to know what is wrong with you. I wouldn't want to know what your symptoms are. I would want to do one thing . . . examine your spine." It would be interesting to know whether Williams and Gold could have lowered their stroke risk, but details are not available about the nature or underlying causes of their strokes or whether they avoided preventive medical care. According to his biographer,

James W. Parker, D.C. (1920-1997) was the most prominent practice-builder of all time. According to his biographer, Parker suffered from severe pain for 30 years while he sought in vain to get cured by chiropractors but finally concluded that his problem was medical rather than chiropractic in origin. [Barrett S. Some notes on James W. Parker, D.C. Chirobase, Jan 16, 2012]

Supplement company settles regulatory complaint. Canada-based Iovate Health Sciences, Inc. and its American affiliate, Iovate Health Sciences USA, Inc., have agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million in civil penalties and costs to settle a lawsuit brought by the district attorneys' offices in ten California counties. The suit alleged that Iovate engaged in false and misleading advertising in connection with the marketing of Accelis, nanoSLIM, Cold MD, Germ MD, EZ-Swallow Rapid-Tabs, Germ MD Effervescent Tablets, Allergy MD, and Allergy MD Rapid-Tab. It also alleged that certain lots of ColdMD violated California's Proposition 65, which requires a warning label on products that expose consumers to over half a microgram of lead per day. (Iovate stopped selling Cold MD in 2008.) The settlement, signed in Napa County Superior Court, requires Iovate to pay $1,200,000 in civil penalties that will provide support for the future enforcement of California consumer protection laws. The agreement also provides for $300,000 in investigative costs. It is the second largest multi-district attorney dietary supplement settlement of its kind in California history. While not admitting fault, Iovate agreed to abide by a comprehensive court order to prevent any future unfair or deceptive business practices. [District Attorney Jill Ravitch announces $1.5 million settlement with Iovate Health Sciences, Inc. Sonoma County District Attorney's Office press release, Jan 6, 2012]

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