Consumer Health Digest #12-26

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 26, 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.

Oz makes bizarre claims for pajamas. Mehmet Oz, M.D., is recommending sleepware (Goodnighties) that is claimed to "neutralize the stress our bodies produce" and to emit negative ions that stimulate blood flow to tired muscles. [Barrett S. Dr. Oz makes wacky claims for pajamas. Quackwatch, July 26, 2012] The claims on the marketer's Web site include:

Last year, some college students found that Goodnighties products did not emit negative charges or improve circulation. They also concluded that several claims were impossible. [Buckland D. Review: Goodnighties sleepwear. medGadget Web site, July 7, 2010] Dr. Barrett has asked the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division to evaluate the above claims.

"Life coach" suing nutrition licensing board. Steve Cooksey, who fancies himself qualified to advise diabetics about nutrition, is trying to prevent the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition from stopping him. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that the board's action infringes on his right to free speech. The board's response to his motion for a preliminary injunction states:

Although Plaintiff Cooksey attempts to cast his Complaint as a First Amendment case challenging the Board's "censorship of ordinary advice on an age-old topic: What is the healthiest food to eat?"—the reality is far different. If Plaintiff was only interested in discussing his views on the healthiest foods to eat, this matter would not be before the Court. Plaintiff Cooksey, however, seeks a ruling that would invalidate the Dietetics/Nutrition Practice Act ("Act") and allow him, among other things, to individually counsel diabetics on the diet they should be consuming given their specific health condition. The Act was created to address that very situation—"to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare and to protect the public from being harmed by unqualified persons by providing for the licensure and regulation of persons engaged in the practice of dietetics/nutrition and by the establishment of educational standards for those persons" . . . .

Quackwatch has posted additional details about the suit with links to the relevant court documents.

"Lyme specialist" in serious legal trouble. Carol Ann Ryser, M.D. and her husband Michael Earl Ryser, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for health care fraud and filing false tax returns. The indictment alleges that the pair engaged in fraudulent billing by "upcoding" and falsifying claims submitted to insurers in an effort to be paid more than the amount to which their clinic (Health Centers of America) was entitled. According to the indictment, the scheme included: (a) billing for physician office visits when Carol was out of town or had little or no involvement with the patient, (b) billing for physician office visits when the patient contact was by telephone, (c) billing for services with no supporting documentation; (d) billing for physician-supervised intravenous services when no physician was on duty at the clinic, and (e) improperly billing for consultation services. The Rysers are also charged with filing false tax returns for the calendar years 2006 through 2008. (The indictment states that their gross income was "materially greater" than the $7.5 million they reported.)

In 2009, based on her management of seven patients, the Missouri Board of the Healing Arts charged Ryser with fraud and unprofessional conduct that included "willfully and continually doing inappropriate and unnecessary testing and incorectly diagnosing Lyme disease."

The Missouri Case Register indicates that since 1997, Ryser and/or her clinic were listed as a defendant in more than 35 cases and had 16 judgments recorded against them. At least 12 of the cases were filed by patients who alleged that she had misdiagnosed them with Lyme disease. Quackwatch has additional details and with links to the relevant documents.

Study finds little evidence that sports performance products are useful. Researchers who reviewed performance-enhancing claims for sports drinks, supplements, clothing, footwear, and devices have concluded that they were not adequately supported by scientific evidence. The investigators viewed 1035 web pages, identified 431 performance-enhancing claims for 104 different products, asked the marketers for additional information, and evaluated 146 references that supposedly underpinned the advertised claims. They found that half of the sites cited no references and that among those that did, nearly all of the studies were inadequately designed. [Heneghan C and others. The evidence underpinning sports performance products: A systematic assessment. BMJ Open 2:e001702, 2012]

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This page was posted on July 26, 2012.