Consumer Health Digest #18-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 14, 2018

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. 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.

Deceptive claims barred for alleged cancer products. In response to a complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Derek E. Vest, individually and as owner of CellMark Biopharma, LLC, has signed a stipulated order for permanent injunction that prohibits the company from making any representation for any dietary supplement, food, or drug of treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any disease; symptom of cancer; and side effect, condition, or ailment resulting from cancer treatment. The FTC's complaint alleged deceptive advertising of two CellMark products: (1) CellAssure, which was marketed as having "anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties" and as a medical breakthrough solution for cancer-related malnutrition; and (2) Cognify, which the company promoted for patients receiving chemotherapy as "the world's first product designed specifically to alleviate…chemo fog." [Marketers barred from making deceptive claims about products' ability to mitigate side effects of cancer treatment: CellMark and its CEO lacked scientific evidence to back up their products' claims. FTC news release, Jan 11, 2018]

Fake doctor sentenced. Malachi Alexander Love Robinson, 20, who received national media attention in 2016 for operating a South Florida holistic clinic and pretending to be a doctor, has signed a plea agreement that calls for a sentence of 42 months of incarceration with credit for more than a year already spent in prison. The charges included multiple felony offenses including practice of medicine without a license, practice of naturopathy without a license, fraudulent use of personal ID information, grand theft, and obtaining property in return for a worthless check. In February 2016 an undercover investigator from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office came as a patient to Love-Robinson's New Birth New Life Medical Center & Urgent Care in West Palm Beach. The investigator reported that Love-Robinson conducted an examination and claimed to be a "'Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine' and a health care practitioner specializing in all natural treatments." The Sheriff's Office also determined that Love-Robinson had falsely claimed to have graduated from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine when he obtained "certifications" from the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the American Alternative Medical Association. [DOH investigative report, Feb 22, 2016] Love-Robinson was subsequently arrested for practicing medicine without a license. In an ABC News interview, he claimed to have a Ph.D. that he said "I don't feel comfortable in disclosing because that is not the issue here." However, it appears that his only "doctorate" was a divinity degree from the online Universal Life Church Seminary that could have been bought for as little as $29.95. In May 2017, in a separate case, he served a year in prison after pleading guilty to "providing fraudulent information" when attempting to buy a car in Virginia (with a bad check) while on bail from his Florida charges. [Freeman M. Teen who faked being a doctor heads to prison for 3 years. Sun-Sentinel, Jan 4, 2018]

2017 JREF Award announced. Susan Gerbic and the team of editors she has enlisted for her Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) project have received the 2017 award from the The James Randi Educational Foundation. The award is given to the person or organization that best represents the spirit of the foundation by encouraging critical questions and seeking unbiased, fact-based answers. In January 2018, Gerbic told Dr. William London that her team had created or rewitten more than 500 Wikipedia pages in multiple languages that have received nearly 22 million views. In 2015, JREF announced that it would convert into a grant-making foundation that expected to make a small number of annual awards to non-profit groups that promote "activities that encourage critical thinking and a fact-based world view." No dollar amount was announced for the 2017 award.

Legal defense fund set up for naturopathy whistleblower. Australian Skeptics, Inc. is organizing an international fundraising campaign to help with the legal costs of former naturopath Britt Marie Hermes, who is defending a defamation suit over a blog post she wrote about Colleen Huber, owner of Nature Works Best (NWB), a naturopathic cancer clinic. Donations can be made online to the legal defense fund. [Hermes, B. I need your help: Colleen Huber is suing me. Naturopathic Diaries, Jan 13, 2018] Last October, Hermes made an extraordinary presentation at CSICON 2017.

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This page was posted on January 14, 2018