Consumer Health Digest #14-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 30, 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.

Cigarette use declining. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that cigarette smoking has decreased again among both adults and adolescents. Among middle and high school students, the rate has declined from about 28% in 2001 to 12.7% in 2013. Among adults 18 and over, the rate has dropped from about 23% in 2002 to about 18% in 2012-2013. The data are summarized in three reports posted on the CDC Web site:

British ASA attacks commonly made "performance mouthwear" claims. The British Advertising Standards Authority has ordered Mouthwear Technology Ltd (dba Performance Mouthwear UK) to stop claiming that wearing an Armour Bite device increases strength, increases endurance, speeds up reaction time, reduces athletic stress, and reduces impact. During the review process, the company said that over 5,000 dentists globally were licensed providers of the products. Dental Watch has an article describing how the devices have been marketed with unsubstantiated claims.

Fluoridation does well in recent election. The American Dental Association has reported that fluoridation prevailed in seven out of eight communities where it was contested at the polls—with voter approval ranging from 63% to 73%. [Crozier S. Fluoridation wins at the polls in seven U.S. cities. ADA News, Nov 17, 2014] Richland, GA voted to initiate fluoridation, Boyne City, MI voted to reinstate it, and Bronson, MI; Salina, KS; Healdsburg, CA; Kalama, WA; Richland, GA; and Albany, WI voted to retain it. The loss occurred in Webster County, GA.

Appeals court rejects glucosamine class-action settlement. In an unusual move, a three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel has rejected a proposed settlement of class action-suits against NBTY, its Rexall subsidiary, Target, CVS, and Costco. The case began in 2011 with six separate suits that charged the companies with improperly advertising that glucosamine will help rebuild cartilage, support renewal of cartilage, help maintain the structural integrity of joints, lubricate joints, and support mobility and flexibility. The suits were consolidated and, in 2013, the parties reached a settlement that prohibited such claims for three years and provided refunds to purchasers of the products. However, class members from all six suits who thought that the settlement was unfair filed appeals. The appellate court noted that the settlement was structured so that the language restrictions were trivial, the plaintiffs lawyers would get paid more than the purchasers and consumer restitution was far too low. The published opinion states:

The settlement, a selfish deal between class counsel and the defendant, disserves the class. Class counsel shed crocodile tears over Rexall's misrepresentations, describing them as "demonstrably false," "consumer fraud," "false representations," and so on, and pointed out that most of the consumers of Rexall's glucosamine pills are elderly, bought the product in containers the labels of which recite the misrepresentations—and number some 12 million. Yet only one-fourth of one percent of these fraud victims will receive even modest compensation, and for a limited period the labels will be changed, in trivial respects unlikely to influence or inform consumers. And for conferring these meager benefits class counsel should receive almost $2 million?

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This page was posted on November 30, 2014.