Consumer Health Digest #17-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 21 , 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.

TINA reports on GNC regulatory actions and consumer lawsuits. Truth in Advertising, Inc., has published a history of government actions against General Nutrition and its associated companies. The government actions have included three U.S. Justice Department actions, three major FTC actions, at least four FTC actions against companies whose products were sold at GNC, more than a dozen false representation actions by the U.S. Postal Service, at least six actions by State agencies, and at least ten actions initiated by the FDA. There also have been more than 100 consumer lawsuits. [GNC: No stranger to regulatory enforcement., May 22, 2017] The takeaway message is that government regulation is limited and consumers need to be very skeptical of claims made about dietary supplements.

Physician receives 19-year sentence for pain pill mill activity. Adelfo Pamatmat, M.D, has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for participating in a conspiracy to distribute prescription pills and conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Pamatmat was one of 44 defendants named in a multi-count second superseding indictment unsealed in March 2013. Five other doctors and five pharmacists were convicted, either by guilty plea or at trial. Documents in the case indicate:

Source: Farmington Hills doctor sentenced to 19 years in prison for distributing prescription drugs and health care fraud. USDOJ news release, May 19, 2017.

History of Dutch antiquackery group posted. Atlas Obscura, a site that focuses on "the world's wondrous and curious places, has posted a history of Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij, the Dutch Society against Quackery, which now has over 1,700 members. [Grundhauser E. What's kept the Society against Quackery going for 137 years. Atlas Obscura, May 19, 2017] The society formed in the late 1800s in an effort to raise awareness of the growing number of quacks operating in the Netherlands. Initially, the group was focused on rooting out fraudulent doctors and suspicious medicines (nostrums). Its members, mostly doctors and other educated men, would chemically test suspect remedies, and if they were found to be placebos or otherwise ineffective, the Society would publish their findings in its journal. In recent years, the society's focus has been on "alternative" methods, not only in Holland but throughout the world. In the early 1990s, the society fiercely lobbied against homeopathic products, and in 2000 it released a list of the 20 greatest quacks of the 20th century. The society has been sued many times for libel, but has won all but one case and ended up with more members and support as a result of the exposure.

TINA criticizes claims for Goop supplements. Truth in Advertising, Inc., has criticized claims that Goop Wellness dietary supplements are effective against adrenal fatigue, depression, insomnia, panic attacks, and poor blood circulation. [The scoop on Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's empire. TINA Web site, May 8, 2017] Each of the products costs $90 per month or $240 for a 3-month supply. In June, the company will host an all-day "in Goop Health" program that offers such services as crystal therapy, aura photography, a flower remedies, intravenous drips ("for an energy boost"), and a "sound bath." The tickets are priced from $500 to $1500. Goop was founded in 2008 by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The company's Web site describes it as "a brand devoted to making every choice count, where health, wellness, food, shopping, and mindfulness collide."

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This page was posted on May 22, 2017.