Consumer Health Digest #14-35

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 21, 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.

Cancer fraud doctor pleads guilty. Farid Fata, M.D., a cancer specialist who practiced near Detroit, Michigan, has pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering, and admitted that he gave patients treatments that were not needed. The final version of his indictment stated that he had:

A Justice Department press release issued on the day Fata was arrested stated that in one instance, a male patient fell and hit his head when he came to one of Fata's offices. Fata insisted that the patient receive his chemotherapy before he was taken to the emergency room. The patient later died from his head injury. In another case, a patient had extremely low sodium levels, which can be fatal. Fata again directed that the patient receive chemotherapy before being taken to the emergency room.

The Michigan Board of Medicine suspended Fata's medical license in 2013 and revoked it in January 2014 for unethical business practices, negligence/incompetence, lack of good moral character, unprofessional conduct, and drug diversion. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 2015.

Dismissal of Wakefield libel suit upheld. The Texas Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court ruling that dismissed the libel suit brought by Dr. Andrew Wakefield against the British Medical Journal Publishing Group, BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, and investigative reporter Brian Deer. Wakefield's suit, which was filed in Texas, was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The Appeals Court also ordered Wakefield to pay the defendants' costs related to the appeal. In 2010, the British Medical Council found Wakefield guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him from the physician register. The suit was mainly concerned about a BMJ article written by Deer, an accompanying editorial that discussed Wakefield's conduct, and an article in The Lancet Wakefield wrote that was later retracted. A brief filed during the case provides a detailed account of Deer's devastating investigation. Deer's Web site provides additional perspective on the libel suit.

Avon leaves Direct Selling Association. Avon has announced that it has withdrawn from the Direct Selling Association (DSA), which it co-founded and helped lead for many years. In an open letter to DSA members, Avon said that the organization's code of ethics was outdated and had failed protect people entering the direct selling business. Many DSA members are multilevel marketing companies (MLMs) whose distributors depend upon recruiting rather than product sales for most of their income. Knowledgeable observers believe that Avon was concerned about the recent wave of negative publicity toward Herbalife (another prominent DSA member), which several regulatory agencies are investigating—and Avon did not want its reputation tarnished by continued close association with MLMs. [Stewart M. The women of Avon 'lipstick' it to the DSA, Wherefore art thou Ramey-O? Seeking Alpha Blog, Sept 16, 2014]

Whelan obituary published. The New York Times has published a lengthy obituary of Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., who died last week.

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This page was revised on September 21, 2014.