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:
- A Naturopath is a health practitioner who applies natural therapies. His/her spectrum comprises far more than fasting, nutrition, water, and exercises; it includes approved natural healing practices such as Homeopathy, Acupuncture, and Herbal Medicine, as well as the use of modern methods like Bio-Resonance, Ozone-Therapy, and Colon Hydrotherapy.
- By using natural therapies he or she is able to treat both acute and chronic ailments successfully.
- Using a range of alternative methods of diagnosis, a Naturopath can often successfully pin-point a predisposition in the body, before the onset of acute disease, and treat the patient with specific therapies and changes in the patient's lifestyle.
- The physician as teacher—a Naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care.
- Prevention is better than cure—a Naturopath may remove toxic substances and situations from a patient's lifestyle to prevent the onset of further disease.
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:
- The statement ". . . he needs more B vitamins, she needs more iron and folic acid" was ambiguous and might be misconstrued as meaning that the man's vitamin intake was inadequate and so he needed more, thereby suggesting that men like him might be suffering from a lack of vitamins and could be at greater risk of heart disease without taking the product.
- Statements such as "She'd like help with energy release, so would he. He'd like immunity support, so would she," and that they each particularly needed "more B vitamins" and "more iron and folic acid", suggested that the individuals appearing in the ad – and therefore healthy adults in general – required supplements to provide appropriate quantities of those nutrients.
- The ad falsely implied that the advertised products were the solution to providing those nutrients and that appropriate quantities of nutrients in general could not be obtained from a balanced and varied diet.
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.
This page was revised on March 16, 2013.