Consumer Health Digest #15-23

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 14, 2015

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.

Another bogus device draws an FDA warning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered the marketers of the ONDAMED System to stop claiming that it can diagnose or treat disease and to stop saying that it is a biofeedback device. [Welch J. Warning Letter to Sylvia Binder, June 1, 2015] The system consists of a base station plus a hand-held device that is claimed to scan the body and treat the gamut of disease by detecting and correcting "vibrations" associated with organ dysfunction. The ONDAMED is one of dozens of bogus low-voltage "scanners" used by thousands of chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists, "holistic" physicians, veterinarians, self-styled "nutritionists," and various unlicensed individuals. The FDA has banned importation of some of these devices (including the ONDAMED) into the United States and warned or prosecuted several marketers. However, no systematic effort has been made to drive them from the marketplace. [Barrett S. Regulatory actions related to EAV devices. Quackwatch, June 11, 2015] Last month ZYTO Technologies received a similar warning. [Mitchell LM. Warning letter to Vaughn R. Cook, May 8, 2015] It will be interesting to see whether the FDA's current interest has any practical effect.

Credit card companies disqualify foreign pharmacies. VISA and MasterCard will no longer permit Americans to use their cards to purchase drugs over the Internet from legitimate Canadian pharmacies. In response to a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, VISA stated that its policy was initiated to protect consumers, but people who buy at Canadian pharmacies that have been vetted by do not need such protection. VISA further stated that its evaluations were based on ratings by LegitScript. However, LegitScript—which received $5.2 million in FDA grants to identify "rogue" pharmacies—gives "unapproved" ratings to all foreign pharmacies even if its investigations find nothing fraudulent. The proposed Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2015 (H.R. 2228 / S 122) would allow personal importation of 90-day supplies of health maintenance medications from licensed Canadian pharmacies when ordered with a valid prescription and would establish a certification process and a list of approved pharmacies. This bill is important because millions of Americans are buying from online pharmacies in Canada and elsewhere where prices are much lower for the same drugs sold within the United States.

AMA wants "personal belief" vaccine exemptions ended. The AMA has adopted a new policy to seek more stringent state immunization requirements. Although mandatory immunization programs in the United States have controlled or eliminated the spread of smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and polio, only two states bar non-medical exemptions based on personal beliefs. The new policy recommends that qualified public health officials be involved in determining which vaccines should be mandated and that exemptions be permitted only for medical reasons. The AMA also intends to support the dissemination of materials on vaccine efficacy. [AMA supports tighter limitations on immunization opt outs. AMA news release, June 8, 2015]

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This page was revised on August 17, 2015.