Consumer Health Digest #14-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 25, 2014

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.

FTC attacks dubious green coffee bean weight-loss claims. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has sued a Florida-based operation that capitalized on the green coffee diet fad by using bogus weight loss claims and fake news Web sites to market the dietary supplement Pure Green Coffee. Popularized on the "Dr. Oz Show," green coffee bean extract was touted as a potent weight loss treatment that supposedly burns fat. The FTC alleged that weeks after Oz's promotion, Nicholas Congleton, Paul Pascal, Bryan Walsh, and the companies they control—NPB Advertising, Inc., also doing business as Pure Green Coffee; Nationwide Ventures, LLC; Olympus Advertising, Inc.; JMD Advertising, Inc.; and Signature Group, LLC—began marketing through sites that featured excerpts from Oz's show and testimonials from "consumers" who were paid for their participation. They also set up sites that featured mastheads of fictitious news organizations such as Women's Health Journal and Healthy Living Reviewed, as well as logos they appropriated from actual news organizations, like CNN and MSNBC. The FTC charged the defendants with falsely claiming that users of their product could can lose 20 pounds in four weeks, 16% of body fat in 12 weeks, and 30 pounds and four-to-six inches of belly fat in 3 to 5 months. [FTC charges green coffee bean sellers with deceiving consumers through fake news sites and bogus weight loss claims. FTC news release, May 19, 2014]

Texas sues Xerox over dental fraud. The Texas Attorney General's Office has filed a civil lawsuit in state district court against Xerox Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary, ACS State Healthcare LLC. The State's action seeks to recover Medicaid payments for orthodontic and dental services that Xerox improperly and fraudulently approved. Since 2003, Xerox has served as the vendor responsible for reviewing dental and orthodontic claims submitted to the Medicaid program. Under state law, only the most severe cases where orthodontic disfigurement (malocclusion) poses a health risk to a patient are eligible for Medicaid coverage; the Medicaid program does not cover cosmetic orthodontics. The lawsuit charges that Xerox (a) received hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments because it routinely "rubber-stamped" requests for authorization for cosmetic orthodontics and (b) knowingly misrepresented the fact that it was not doing adequate reviews. The State's lawsuit seeks to recover the payments that Xerox approved for orthodontic services that were not medically necessary. The lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief, civil penalties, and restitution of overpayments.

New Zealand researchers refute claim that fluoridation lowers IQ. Researchers at the University of Otago have concluded that fluoridation poses no threat to brain development in children. [Broadbent JM and others. Community water fluoridation and intelligence: Prospective study in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health, May 15, 2014] The data they analyzed were obtained from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study that has been following nearly all aspects of the health and development of about 1,000 people born in Dunedin in 1972-1973. The new research focused on fluoride exposure during the first five years of life, a critical period in brain development, after which IQ is known to be relatively stable. The researchers compared the IQs of Dunedin Study participants who grew up in Dunedin suburbs with and without fluoridated water. Use of fluoride toothpaste and tablets was also taken into account. They examined average IQ scores between the ages of 7-13 years and at age 38, as well as subtest scores for verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. Data on IQ were available for more than 900 study participants. The analysis found no significant differences in IQ with fluoride exposure. The investigation was done in response to claims that antifluoridationists have been trumpeting—based on studies that, unlike the Otago analysis, did not take other important factors (such as socioeconomic status, educational quality, and breastfeeding) into account. The studies cited by fluoride opponents are additionally suspect because nearly all of them were published in Chinese journals that appear to have very low standards for acceptance.

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This page was posted on May 25, 2014.