Consumer Health Digest #13-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 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.

Fake insurance exchange sites shut down. The California Attorney General's office has halted the operation of ten sites that were trying to mimic the state's official insurance marketplace for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The sites, which were operated by private health insurance brokers or companies that had similar domain names, have either been removed or had their traffic redirected to the state's official site. California's only official health insurance marketplace is, which is where individuals, families and small businesses can get information, compare plans, and enroll. Health insurance plans sold outside the official exchange on the individual market before January 1, 2014 do not qualify for federal subsidies and do not have the guarantees provided by the ACA's consumer protection provisions. [Attorney General Kamala D. Harris shuts down imitation 'Covered California' Websites, provides tips for consumers. Press release, Nov 14, 2013]

Provoked testing blasted. A prominent toxicologist has described the reasons why provoked testing—a procedure in which a chelating agent is administered before measuring the concentration of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals—has no useful diagnostic value. [Ruha A-M. Recommendations for provoked challenge urine testing. Journal of Medical Toxicology, Oct 23, 2013] Her report states:

The publisher has granted free access to the full article until February 1, 2014.

Another metals test debunked. Rashid A. Buttar, D.O., who testified at a disciplinary hearing that he chelates most of the patients he sees, is now medical director of OligoScan North America Ltd., which is marketing a spectrographic device (the OligoScan) that is said to measure the concentrations of metals when passed over the skin of the left hand. In an instructional video, Buttar says that (a) the results are comparable to provoked urine tests, (b) there are never false-positive results, and (c) false-negative results do not rule out a metals problem because the patient may have difficulty excreting metals. The OligoScan is not listed in the FDA's 510(k) database of devices that have been cleared for marketing. Device Watch has posted a skeptical report.

Trudeau convicted of criminal contempt of court. A federal jury has found Kevin Trudeau guilty of criminal contempt in connection with his advertising of The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About. Trudeau has a lengthy history of battling with the Federal Trade Commission about false advertising for products. In 2004, in one of the FTC cases, a federal judge ordered Trudeau to pay $2 million to consumers and prohibited him from using infomercials to advertise any products except books—but books would be permitted only if (a) they did not refer to any other product Trudeau was marketing and (b) the infomercial did not misrepresent the content of the book. In 2007, Trudeau advertised that the plan in his weight loss book was easy to follow. When the FTC disagreed, it initiated both civil and criminal contempt proceedings. The court subsequently found Trudeau in civil contempt, awarded damages of over $37 million to compensate consumers for their losses, and banned Trudeau from appearing in infomercials for three years. On the same day that the civil penalty was imposed, the judge ordered Trudeau to show cause why he should not be prosecuted for criminal contempt. This month, a jury took less than an hour to render its verdict in the criminal proceedings. Trudeau was ordered into custody and is expected to be sentenced early next year.

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This page was posted on November 17, 2013.