Consumer Health Digest #16-30

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 7, 2016

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.

FTC and NYAG attack dubious Zika-related promotions. The FTC staff has sent warning letters to ten online marketers selling products that purportedly provide protection from the Zika virus. [FTC sends warning letters to online sellers making Zika virus-protection claims. FTC News release, Aug 5, 2016] The letters warn the recipients that Zika protection claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of well-controlled human clinical testing. The products of concern include wristbands, patches, and stickers that purportedly can repel the mosquitoes that carry Zika or otherwise protect users from the virus. The letters also point out that the testing supporting claims of protection from the Zika virus must use the mosquito species that are able to carry the virus—and must be able to demonstrate that the repellent effects last as long as advertised. On August 3, New York's Attorney General issued cease-and-desist letters to seven companies that market products with false claims that the products prevent or protect against Zika virus. The products included wrist bands, bracelets, patches and stickers impregnated with ingredients such as oil of geranium, cedar, lemon grass, soy, and citronella. A.G. Schneiderman issues cease and desist letters demanding companies Stop falsely advertising ineffective products as "Zika-preventive." NYAG press release, Aug 3, 2016] On August 4th, the AG's office reported that six of the recipients agreed to stop marketing the items.

Class-action solicitations causing unwarranted stoppage of prescribed drugs. Two doctors who work for Janssen Pharmaceuticals have reported that advertising by attorneys has caused at least 30 patients to experience adverse events, such as stroke, after discontinuing medication they needed. [Burton P, Peacock WF. A Medwatch review of reported events in patients who discontinued rivaroxaban (XARELTO) therapy in response to legal advertising. Heart Rhythm Case Reports, 2:248-249, 2016] Rivaroxaban is an anticoagulant drug that Janssen manufactures. The American Medical Association is urging lawyers to better regulate "fearmongering" commercials, and other commentators want the FDA empowered to regulate lawyer ads as it does drug company ads. [Rickard LA. How lawyers scare people out of taking their meds. Washington Post, Aug 5, 2016] The situation would be improved if the ads (a) warned that patients should not stop medications without medical advice and (b) by stating (when true) that risks are rare and benefits exceed risks.

City of Hope cancer ads criticized. Dr. William M. London has severely criticized the City of Hope for suggesting in ads that its care is "miraculous." He points out that although the facility provides excellent care, portraying it as miraculous is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. [London WM. Cancer miracle mongering by City of Hope. Center for Inquiry Web site, Aug 2, 2016]

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This page was revised on August 8, 2016.