Consumer Health Digest #14-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 8, 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.

Class-action suits induce homeopathic manufacturer to exit U.S. and Canada. Heel USA Inc has announced that it will stop marketing within the United States and Canada at the end of August. Its press release attributed the decision to two class-action suits that has caused a "substantial financial burden." [Heel to focus on core markets. Heel press release, May 23, 2014] One suit challenged claims that the company's pain-relief products, Traumeel and Zeel, would provide "on-the-spot" relief, were widely recommended by doctors, and were more effective than certain antiinflammatory drugs. In 2013, Heel entered into a settlement agreement under which, without admitting wrongdoing, it agreed to stop making the challenged claims and pay $1 million into a settlement fund that will be used to reimburse product buyers—or, if funds remain after claims are paid, to a non-profit organization or organizations dedicated to informing consumers or advocating on their behalf about deceptive drug labeling concerns. The other suit concerned the sending of unsolicited faxes which claimed that Heel's Engystol product would "strengthen the natural immune response and boost defenses to better deal with viral infections such as influenza, cold sores and feverish conditions." That case was settled with an agreement under which Heel would make $6 million available to claimants, with a provision that if individual claims did not total at least $615,000, the difference between that number and the claims amount would be distributed to several charities. The plaintiff's attorneys were awarded $2 million plus $170,000 for costs. Homeowatch has a detailed article about Heel's history.

European Union (EU) poised to ease clinical trial access policy. AllTrials, which is campaigning for all clinical trials to be registered and results reported, has warned that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is poised to adopt a proposed policy on June 12th that would unduly restrict public access to clinical trial data. Open access is very important because suppression of negative results can (a) make it appear that ineffective treatments are effective and (b) lead to resources being wasted by repeating fruitless research. Since last year, AllTrials has conducted a petition drive that has attracted more than 78,000 signers worldwide. Now it is urging everyone to e-mail Paola Testori Coggi, the head of the European Commission directorate that oversees the EMA, to tell the EMA not to finalize the proposed policy until various concerns are satisfactorily addressed. The AllTrials Web site specifies what to do.

Amway executive arrested in India. William S. Pinckney, chairman and chief executive officer of Amway India, was arrested last week on charges stemming from a consumer complaint alleging unethical circulation of money through the company's operations (essentially a pyramid scheme). Amway India, which has been selling personal and home care, products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics since 1998, is a subsidiary of the $11.9-billion-a-year U.S. firm Amway Corp. A year ago, Pinckney and two company directors were arrested on charges of violating India's Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act. Last January, Amway global president Doug DeVos said during an interview that his industry hopes to make its messages clearer and simpler to its stakeholders in India and persuade government authorities that it is a bona fide business that should not be confused with pyramid schemes. In response to Pinckney's second arrest, the company suggested that it may have stemmed from a "lack of understanding" about how the business works. [Amway executive Bill Pinckney arrested in India. Detroit Free Press, May 29, 2014]

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This page was posted on June 9, 2014.