Consumer Health Digest #15-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 12, 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.

McCaskill targets "memory" supplements. U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is investigating how dietary supplements are marketed with claims about improving memory and treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease. [McCaskill opens inquiry into 'Brain Armor' and other dietary supplements targeting seniors. News release, June 17, 2015] In a letter, McCaskill has asked the FDA how it evaluates claims made for the supplement products and what actions it has taken against violative marketers. The letter also expressed concern that the agency appears to lack a systematic approach to preventing adulterated, mislabeled, and fraudulent products from entering the market. McCaskill also sent letters asking Amazon, QVC, Walgreens, Home Shopping Network, Walmart, Target, CVS, Vitamin Shoppe, Safeway, eBay, Kroger, Vitamin World, GNC, Google, and Yahoo about their review policies and what they do to prevent sales of harmful or fraudulently marketed products through their facilities.

Memory pill marketers settle FTC charges. The marketers of Procera AVH have settled FTC charges that they deceived consumers with claims that their dietary supplement product—said to contain acetyl-L-carnitine, vinpocetine, and huperzine A—was clinically proven to significantly improve memory, mood, and other cognitive functions. [Supplement marketers will relinquish $1.4 million to settle FTC deceptive advertising charges: Ads claimed Procera AVH would restore 10 to 15 years of memory loss. FTC news release, July 8, 2015] The settlement agreement requires the defendants (KeyView Labs, Inc., Brain Research Labs, LLC, George Reynolds a/k/a Josh Reynolds, John Arnold, and three related companies) to pay $1 million to the FTC and another $400,000 to the District Attorney of Santa Cruz, California. The defendants are also barred from making similar deceptive claims in the future. The FTC's complaint described how the product had been falsely advertised through infomercials, direct mail fliers, newspapers, and the Internet. One newspaper ad was headlined: "Memory Pill Helps the Brain Like Prescription Glasses Help the Eyes. . . . Remarkable changes observed, helps users match the memory power of others 15 years younger in as little as 30 days!"

Another chelationist charged. Barry L. Beaty, D.O., who for many years operated the North Texas Institute for Healing and Wellness in Fort Worth, Texas, has been accused of administering unnecessary chelation therapy to a patient. For several years, his clinic Web site invited people with "vague symptoms that have not resolved with conventional treatments" to undergo heavy metal testing to see whether chelation might be appropriate for them. The Texas Medical Board's complaint states that the patient's chart did not contain an appropriate evaluation or treatment plan and that at least five of the treatments were administered after Beaty noted in the chart that the treatment was no longer necessary.

Cancer fraud doctor gets lengthy prison sentence. Farid Fata, M.D., a cancer specialist who practiced near Detroit, Michigan, has been sentenced to 45 years in prison. Last year, he 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 prescribed and administered aggressive chemotherapy and other treatments to patients who did not need them in order to increase his billings to Medicare and three insurance companies. His medical license was revoked last year.

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This page was posted on July 12, 2015.