Consumer Health Digest #17-45

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 3, 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.


Corrective tobacco ads have begun. In 2006, a federal court judge found tobacco companies guilty of lying to the American public about the deadly effects of cigarettes and secondhand smoke and ordered them to do corrective advertising. Last week, after eleven years of stalling and negotiating, the companies began their extensive corrective campaign, at their own expense, admitting the truth about their products. Television ads will run on major network and cable stations during prime time for 52 weeks. Full-page newspaper ads will appear in more than 50 major cities through April 2018. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has posted background information about the lawsuit, copies of the corrective ads, and sample messages to publicize the corrective campaign through social media.


Former drug company president nominated to become U.S. Secretary of Health. Alex Azar, a past president of Eli Lilly, has been nominated by Donald Trump to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At the U.S. Senate hearing on his nomination, Azar claimed that he was committed to lowering drug prices. [Glenzain J. Trump's health secretary pick pitches himself as opponent to high drug prices. The Guardian, Nov 29, 2017] However, in a blistering op-ed, Prescription Justice president Gabriel Levitt noted that Azar declined to support the two most important cost-lowering measures (Medicare drug negotiation and importation of lower-cost drugs from safe sources) and vigorously opposed them when he was Lilly's president. [Levitt G. Azar is big pharma personified. He must not become US health secretary. The Guardian, Dec 1, 2017] A video of the Senate hearing is posted on C-Span.


National Academies publishes book about lowering drug costs. The National Academies Press has published a comprehensive report that explores (a) structural and policy factors influencing drug pricing and access, (b) the emerging role of comparative effectiveness assessments in payment policies, (c) changing the finances of medical practice with regard to drug costs and reimbursement, (d) measures to prevent drug shortages and foster continued innovation in drug development, (e) legislative and policy actions that would improve patient access to affordable treatments. The report—Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative—can be read online, downloaded free of charge as a PDF, or purchased in print form.


Mannatech ordered to stop claims for several products. The FDA has ordered Mannatech Inc. to stop claiming that its "BounceBack" product reduces soreness, helps reduce muscle pain, and provides anti-inflammatory effects and that turmeric (an ingredient in the product) "has long been used . . . to ameliorate inflammation" and " has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity." The warning letter also challenged nutrient content claims for five other products.


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This page was revised on December 5, 2017.