Consumer Health Digest #14-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 27, 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.

Former Burzynski associate disciplined. The Texas Medical Board has disciplined Robert Anthony Weaver, M.D., in connection with his treatment of a brain cancer patient at the Burzynski Clinic. The board found that Weaver had failed to (a) meet the standard of care while implementing multiple therapies that had insufficient evidence of efficacy and a high probability of additive toxicities, (b) adequately inform the patient of the treatment risks, benefits, and standard alternative treatments, and (c) obtain adequate informed consent. The case was settled with a mediated order under which Weaver agreed to (a) be publicly reprimanded, (b) pay an administrative penalty, (c) be restricted from treating cancer patients outside of a clinical trial, and (d) complete continuing education courses in ethics and informed consent. The clinic's proprietor, Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D. and senior oncologist Zanhua Yi, M.D., are currently facing disciplinary action.

Key fluoridation article released. Dr. Stephen Barrett's has released a 1-page flier—Don't Let Poisonmongers Scare You!—that can be used to counter antifluoridation scare tactics. The flier resembles one he produced during the 1970s that was syndicated to hundreds of newspapers, published as an op-ed during fluoridation campaigns, and distributed to patients by many dentists.

British chelationist shuts down Web site. Dr. P. E. Idahosa, who initially defied an order from the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concerning claims for chelation therapy on his Web site, has shut down the site entirely. In April, in response to a complaint from Dr. Barrett, the ASA ordered Idahosa to stop claiming that chelation therapy can increase blood circulation, increase energy levels, enhance memory, normalize blood pressure, restore lost bodily functions, reduce pain levels, increase HDL cholesterol, decrease LDL cholesterol, or treat cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, diabetes mellitus, intermittent claudication, macular degeneration, arthritis, hypertension, scleroderma, psoriasis, Parkinson's disease, neurological conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, or plaque build-ups caused by calcium. In July, Idahosa informally resolved a follow-up complaint by taking down his entire site. Until recently, Idahosa was the only chelationist Barrett could find who made dubious promotional claims within the ASA's jurisdiction.

TriVita settles FTC charges. TriVita, Inc., Ellison Media Company, and their owners Michael and Susan Ellison have agreed to provide $3.5 million for consumer refunds in order to settle FTC charges that they deceived consumers with unsupported claims that their cactus juice drink, Nopalea, was effective against pain; joint and muscle swelling; respiratory problems; skin conditions; allergies; Alzheimer's disease; heart disease; and diabetes. The FTC also complained that infomercials for the product featured testimonials by satisfied consumers who were actually paid employees of defendants. Under the proposed settlement order, the defendants are barred from making unsubstantiated health claims for products; misrepresenting that health benefits are clinically proven when they are not; and failing to disclose any material connection between endorsers and themselves. [Cactus juice marketers to pay $3.5 million in refunds to consumers for deceptive claims that their product treats diseases. FTC: Claims that drink relieves pain, inflammation, and respiratory and skin problems are unfounded. FTC news release, July 15, 2014]

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This page was posted on July 27, 2014.