Consumer Health Digest #13-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 14, 2013

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 regulators blast naturopathy ad. The British Advertising Authority (ASA) has ordered the College of Naturopathic Medicine Ltd, of West Sussex, UK to stop making the following claims on its Web site:

This action is highly significant because such claims are made by naturopaths worldwide.

British regulators criticize Pfizer Centrum ad. The British Advertising Authority has ruled that statements in a television ad for Centrum multivitamins were sufficiently misleading that the ad should not be repeated. The ASA concluded that the ad was misleading because:

Phizer was advised to ensure their future advertising (a) did not imply that a balanced and varied diet could not provide appropriate quantities of nutrients in general and (b) did not encourage individuals to swap a healthy diet for supplementation.

The ASA action is significant because "nutrition insurance" statements ("take our product to make sure you get enough") are common and routinely ignored by regulators in other countries. The ASA is probably the world's most efficient and effective advertising regulatory body because it takes every complaint seriously and acts quickly. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission acts on only a tiny percentage of the complaints it receives, usually requires hundreds or even thousands of complaints, and typically takes months or years to prepare complaints. The ASA's only criterion for action is that the marketer operates within its geographic jurisdiction.

Health Magazine warns against 30 herbs. Health Magazine has published warnings about 30 herbal products that can cause serious reactions to people taking prescription drugs for heart problems. The list includes alfalfa, aloe vera, angelica, bilberry, black cohosh, butcher's broom, capsicum, echinacea, ephedra, fenugreek, fumitory, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, gossypol, grapefruit juice, green tea, hawthorn, Irish moss, kelp, khella, licorice root, lily of the valley, night-blooming cereus, oleander, saw palmetto, St. John's wort, strophanthus, and yohimbe. [Heart trouble? 30 Herbal remedies to avoid. Health Magazine Web site, accessed April 14, 2013]

Swiss acupuncturist arrested. Swiss police have arrested an unlicensed acupuncturist who had barricaded himself in his home after failing to attend a trial at which he is accused intentionally infecting 16 people with the same strain of HIV. Most of the infected individuals were students of a music school run by the man, who also ran an acupuncture practice. The victims were infected between between 2001 and 2005. An expert who testified at the trial said that it was more likely that the infection was spread by a syringe. [Phillips J. "Healer" infects with HIV: Swiss man arrested after skipping trial. The Epoch Times, March 15, 2013] The man, who has not been identified due to Swiss privacy laws, claims that he is innocent.

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This page was revised on March 16, 2013.