Consumer Health Digest #13-41

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 31, 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.

Crackdown urged on fraud in insurance exchanges. Congressman Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and 32 other Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives have asked Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Eric Holder, and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to prioritize resources to combat fraud related to the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. Their letter stated:

FTC sues HCG marketers. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed suit in Arizona federal court against the marketers of HCG Platinum diet products. The defendants include Kevin Wright, his companies (HCG Platinum, LLC and Right Way Nutrition, LLC), and seven relief defendants who received money from sales of the HCG product but had no active role in the alleged efforts to deceive consumers. The products were marketed through Web sites, Facebook, Internet pop-up ads, and retail outlets such as GNC, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. The suit charges that Wright and his companies improperly promised consumers that HCG Platinum drops will cause rapid and substantial weight loss. One video, for example, flashed "before and after" photos on the screen with claims that product users lost weight as rapidly as 43 pounds in 7 weeks—which cannot be done safely and may not occur even with starvation.  

The products sold for between $60 and $149 for a 30-day supply. Users were directed to place HCG concoctions under their tongue before meals and stick to a very low calorie diet of 500 to 800 calories per day. Two products represented as "homeopathic" contained some ingredients at dilution levels where no molecule of the supposedly active substance could be present. The FTC is asking the court to order the defendants to surrender the gains they received from their deceptive marketing. In 2011, FTC and FDA jointly warned HCG Platinum and six other companies that their HCG products were being illegally marketed.

HCG Platinum has also been targeted by a class-action suit which charged that the company had made weight-loss claims (such as "up to 1-2 lbs daily") that were "unlawful, unsubstantiated, and . . . false and deceptive." The class included all persons who purchased HCG Platinum, HCG Platinum Original Formula, HCG PLatinum X-30, and/or HCG Platinum X-14 in the United States for personal consumption from December 13, 2006, through February 9, 2012. In 2012, the defendants, without admitting fault, agreed to modify their advertising and reimburse settlement class members $79.99 for each unit of HCG Platinum or HCG Platinum Original Formula; $31.99 for each unit of X-14; and $58.00 for each unit of X-30.

Dubious "voice diagnosis" system debunked. Device Watch has posted a skeptical look at VoiceBio—also called VoiceBio Analysis or BioHarmonics—a diagnostic system is based on the idea that internal organs communicate with each other through sound waves, with each organ vibrating at certain frequencies, and with organ dysfunction being detectable by a computer-assisted analysis of the patient's voice. The VoiceBio apparatus consists of a microphone connected to a computer that displays a "voiceprint" that supposedly correlates with the entire spectrum of body dysfunctions. The device is claimed to detect "imbalances" that are correctable by using "sound formulas," applying "lymphatic patches" that detoxify the body, making nutritional or dietary changes, and/or seeing someone to work on emotional changes. Sound formulas are created on a special tone box. The client chooses one that feels the best, listens to it at home for about 45 minutes a day for a month, then returns to the practitioner for reassessment. The patches, which most often are applied to the feet, are said to contain herbal ingredients that can reduce toxin levels in the body. The technique was developed in the mid-1990s by Kae Thompson-Liu, who describes herself as a naturopath and says that she devised the methodology over a 4-month period in which she wrote down what happened during dreams every night about helping friends. Thompson also states that there are over 1,200 "certified" practitioners in the United States and that her device can give a much more complete diagnosis or prognosis than would be expected from a medical doctor. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy has concluded that there is no scientific rationale for VoiceBio and no evidence that the system is useful for diagnosing any disorder.

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This page was posted on November 1, 2013.