Consumer Health Digest #15-41
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 18, 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.
Vemma permitted to operate again but with restrictions. A federal judge has returned partial control of Vemma Nutrition Co. back to the company's management. On August 26, at the FTC's request, the court temporarily halted the company's operations, appointed a receiver, and ordered an asset freeze until a hearing could be held on an FTC motion for a temporary injunction. The FTC had asserted that Vemma was an illegal pyramid scheme that exaggerated its income potential and encouraged and rewarded distributors more for recruiting new distributors than for making retail sales. On September 18, three days after the hearing was held, the judge unfroze most of Vemma's assets and permitted the company to resume sales. However, he also ordered the company to stop the business practices to which the FTC had objected and appointed a monitor to ensure that it does so.
Ben Carson closely tied to Mannatech. The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson, M.D., has had a "long and personal involvement" with Mannatech, Inc., a multilevel marketing company that has faced serious government regulatory action. [Maremont M. Ben Carson has had ties to dietary supplement firm that faced legal challenge. The Wall Street Journal, Oct 5, 2015] The article noted:
- In 2009, the company settled false-advertising charges brought by the Texas attorney general's office, which had alleged that Mannatech had permitted "deceptive" and "illegal" miracle-cure testimonials at sales meetings and allowed materials circulated by associates suggesting its products could treat or even cure Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, autism, cancer and other serious illnesses.
- Carson has given four paid speeches at Mannatech gatherings, most recently one in 2013 for which he was paid $42,000.
- Until recently, Carson appeared in promotional videos posted on Mannatech's website. In one such video, he said that Mannatech represented "an incredible opportunity for anybody who really wants to be involved with doing something themselves, making a good living . . . "
- In another video (still posted on YouTube), Carson praised the company for "trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine, or as a mechanism for maintaining health."
In the YouTube video, Carson also talks about his personal use of Mannatech products. Dr. Stephen Barrett believes that Carson's enthusiasm for "natural products" reflects poor medical judgment.
Medicare scam alert issued. U.S. News & World Report has published an excellent summary of Medicare-related scams to watch for during the next few months when beneficiaries are permitted to change their Medicare Advantage and part D prescription plans. [Zamosky L. How to protect yourself against common Medicare scams: What to watch for during open enrollment. U.S. News & World Report, Oct 15, 2015] Its tips include:
- Guard your Medicare number, which in most cases is your Social Security number.
- Calls or e-mails purporting to be from Medicare should be regarded as scams.
- Do not do business with anyone who says that (a) switching plans is a must, (b) Medicare is changing cards, or (c) a special price is available for a limited time.
- To shop for or enroll in legitimate Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans, check out the Medicare Plan Finder at Medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE or 800-633-4227.
This page was revised on October 19, 2015.