Consumer Health Digest #16-36

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 25, 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.

Nightline spotlights abusive dentist. ABC-TV's Nightline has broadcast its investigation of Howard S. Schneider, D.D.S, a Florida dentist accused of abusing more than 100 children by doing work that was inappropriate, unnecessary, and, in many cases, very painful. Schneider's activities came to light after a parent posted an illustrated three-paragraph story on her Facebook page that described how her child went for a routine tooth extraction but had eight teeth pulled instead. The story drew more than 370,000 views in less than two weeks. She also organized daily protests outside Schneider's clinic that resulted in more than 100 similar victims coming forward. The clinic was shut down, Schneider relinquished his dental license, at least 131 civil suits were filed, and the State of Florida charged him with Medicaid fraud. The Nightline program illustrates the abuse, notes that Schneider collected nearly $4 million from Medicaid during a 5-year period, and reports that 104 of the civil suits have been settled. John Phillips, the lawyer handling these civil suits, states that dental abuse is a national epidemic—with some dentists caught billing for more than 1,000 services a day for almost 100 days—and that the abuse usually includes several of the following:

Phillips's Web site has additional information about Schneider and dental abuse.

Oregon expands suit against GNC. The Oregon Attorney General has expanded its lawsuit that charged General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) with selling dietary supplements that contain illegal ingredients. The original complaint, filed in October 2015, concerned picamilon and BMPEA. Picamilon is a synthetic chemical that is not approved in the United States, but is used as a prescription drug in some countries to treat neurological conditions. BMPEA is a powerful stimulant and amphetamine-like substance that is sometimes sold as a weight-loss or performance-enhancing supplement. The original complaint alleges that GNC violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA) by misrepresenting the products as lawful when they are not legal to sell as dietary supplements in the United States. The complaint also charged that some products labeled as containing botanical acacia rigidula had been spiked with unlabeled BMPEA. In a response to the suit, GNC claimed that (a) consistent with "retail standard practice," it "appropriately" relied on the guarantees of suppliers that their products are lawful, and (b) there is no basis for the Oregon Attorney General's assertion that GNC or any other retailer knew or should have known that picamilon and BMPEA were illegal for use in dietary supplements. On September 19, the complaint was amended to add products containing the purported stimulants DMAA and oxilofrine (methylsynephrine). The amended complaint charges GNC with knowingly selling products adulterated with DMAA at the same time federal regulators were moving to seize the products and failing to disclose FDA's determination that the ingredient was illegal. The complaint also noted that oxilofrine had been linked to serious adverse events—nausea, vomiting, agitation, tachycardia, chest pain, and cardiac arrest—when consumed at far lower dose levels than the maximum recommended in a product GNC had sold from early 2013 to mid-2015. [Meyers S. Oregon AG Adds DMAA, oxilofrine to GNC complaint. Natural Products Insider, Sept 20, 2016] The FDA issued warning letters in 2012 to ten companies selling DMAA products and in March 2016 to seven companies selling products that contained methylsynephrine.

Actress who relied on TCM therapies dies of cancer. Chinese actress Kitty Xu Ting has been killed by lymphoma after choosing to use acupuncture, cupping, and other traditional Chinese treatments rather than chemotherapy. Press reports and her own blog indicate that she declined chemotherapy for reasons of cost, and fear of pain. However, the TCM treatment turned out to painful as well as ineffective. [Davy M. Chinese actress Xu Ting dies from cancer after choosing traditional Chinese medicine over chemo. The Straights Times, Sept 19, 2016] When Ting's condition worsened, she finally underwent chemotherapy but it was too late. [Palazzo C. Chinese actress' death sparks national debate over traditional medicine. The Telegraph Sept 16, 2016] At the time of her death, she was 25 years old.

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This page was posted on September 25, 2016.