Consumer Health Digest #17-15

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 9, 2017

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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

Smartphone device debunked. Device Watch has posted a critical analysis of the iTOVi Nutrition Tracker, a hand-held scanner that combines with a smartphone app that recommends which dietary supplement and/or essential oils the body supposedly can use. [Barrett S. iTOVi scanning: Another test to avoid. Device Watch April 7, 2017] Digital "product libraries" have been created for the products of ten multilevel companies that sell such products. The manufacturer claims that by sending "digital signatures" to the body, the device can determine which products will bring "unresolved biopoints" (representing internal organs) back into proper range. The device is not FDA-approved, but the manufacturer asserts that is not diagnostic and can be legally marketed as a "low-risk general wellness device." Whether this is correct remains to be seen.

Australian chiropractor sentenced for false advertising. Hance Limboro, a New South Wales chiropractor has been convicted of false advertising in which he claimed to be able to prevent, treat and cure cancer. In August 2016, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) filed 13 charges to which he subsequently pleaded guilty. In February 2017, at the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney, he was convicted, fined $29,500 and ordered to pay AHPRA's legal costs. His case involved the use of testimonials, which is not permitted in the advertising of regulated health services. AHPRA's CEO said that "making false claims to treat serious illnesses through unproven methods is both unethical and illegal" and called the conviction "a landmark ruling." [NSW chiropractor who claimed cancer cure convicted in landmark case. AHPRA media release, Feb 15, 2017]

MyPillow settles false advertising complaint. In October 2016, Minnesota-based MyPillow settled a complaint by district attorneys in California by agreeing to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims that its pillows can prevent, treat, or cure diseases or symptoms. The agreement also required MyPillow to (a) pay $995,000 in civil penalties, (b) give $100,000 to homeless and domestic violence shelters in California, and (c) stop promoting its pillow as the "official pillow" of the National Sleep Foundation (with which it had had a material undisclosed financial connection). The California agreement stems from a suit filed by the Alameda County District Attorney and nine other counties that focused on unsubstantiated claims to treat conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnea and fibromyalgia and the company's relationship with the National Sleep Foundation. Many of the questionable claims were presented through testimonials. The lawsuit alleged that MyPillow "knew or reasonably should have known" that the marketing claims were likely to mislead consumers. In August 2016, MyPillow agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a whistleblower case handled by the New York attorney general's office that alleged it knowingly failed to collect sales tax on Internet and phone sales of pillows marketed in New York. The company is also facing class-action suits. Truth in Advertising, Inc., which provided its findings to the California officials, has monitored the situation closely and archived many of the relevant documents.

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This page was posted on April 9, 2017.