Consumer Health Digest #13-34

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 12, 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.

Metagenics warned again about illegal "medical food" claims. Metagenics, a company that markets dietary supplements mainly through practitioners, has been told by the FDA to stop making illegal claims for products it has been marketing as "medical foods." The warning letter states:

The warning letter was issued on the same day that the FDA published a draft industry guidance in the Federal Register, which suggests that the agency may be looking more closely at products marketed as medical foods, but whether there will be actual enforcement remains to be seen. In 2003, the FDA notified Metagenics that four of the above-mentioned products were not medical foods and were being marketed with illegal "new drug" claims. The company reduced the number of disease-related claims for these products but continued to market them as medical foods. Quackwatch has additional information about the company, its associated educational activities, and FTC action against UltraClear.

Two more doctors disciplined for inappropriately diagnosing Lyme disease. Two more doctors have signed consent agreements in which, among other aberrant clinical procedures, they were criticized for diagnosing Lyme disease despite negative laboratory tests and for inappropriately prescribing long courses of antibiotics.

Chelationist caught defrauding insurance companies. A chelation practitioner who defrauded insurance companies but avoided criminal prosecution has been disciplined by three state medical boards. In 2010, the U.S. Government filed a civil complaint charging Parveen Malik, M.D., who practiced in Michigan, with improperly collecting more than $1 million dollars from insurance programs for chelation sessions that were not medically indicated or were billed for treating members of her famuly. The complaint was accompanied by an agreement under which Malik agreed to pay restitution of $889,798.79 to Medicare at a rate of $400 per month and of $174,448.23 to Blue Cross of Michigan at the rate of $100 per month. She was also excluded for 20 years from collecting from any federal agency for medical procedures. In 2011, in response to this proceeding, the Michigan Board of Medicine fined Malik $2,500 and placed her on probation for three years. The board's order noted that from 2001 to 2006, she had improperly billed for chelation therapy using diagnostic codes that applied to other therapies and that she had been responsible for 99% of chelation therapy for Michigan. In 2012, the Iowa Board of Medicine fined Malik $10,000 and placed her license on indefinite suspension and the Florida Medical Board fined her $3,000 and placed her on probation for two years, during which she is not allowed to administer chelation therapy or B12 injections without a medically supported need for these treatments. Dr. Stephen Barrett would like to hear from anyone who has been treated by Dr. Malik or any other doctor who has tried to get an insurance program to pay for inappropriate chelation therapy.

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