Consumer Health Digest #18-34
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 26, 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.
Philippine cancer clinic shut down. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration has closed the Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center at Barangay (village) Maluid in Tarlac province after a court-approved search revealed it had been selling unregistered health products promoted by Dr. Agustin-Bunch as natural cancer remedies. This pharmacy/medical center may also be fined for selling various items bearing the "Dr. Farrah" label that have been seized. [Adelaida M. FDA shuts down Tarlac pharmacy for selling unregistered products. Inquirer.net, Aug. 17, 2018] The medical center's Web site has claimed:
- "The Dr. Farrah Method works to reach the cause of cancer by systemic elimination of toxins, thereby eradicating both the cause and the effect of the cancer."
- The cornerstone of the treatment is Dr. Farrah's Boston C, a "scientific blend of herbs and extracts" that evolved from a concoction developed by Dr. Farrah's grandfather in the early 1980s and improved by her father in 1988.
- The facility is "the world leader in cancer treatment."
- "No other cancer clinic, of any kind, has such a highly documented success rate. . . . We will not make flowery misleading statements, nor do we claim a cure-all for cancer or any other diseases. We simply feel that we have the most successful and efficient methods of treating cancer anywhere in the world today. . ."
But Dr. Stephen Barrett notes:
- "Her ideas about the causes and treatment of cancer do not conform to basic knowledge of cancer physiology shared the scientific community. Instead of recognizing that many factors (including diet and heredity) contribute to cancer, she claims that its underlying causes are "toxins" and "weakness of the immune system."
- "Her claim that her treatments (a) cleanse the body of toxins, (b) stimulate the immune system, and (c) strengthen vital organs are simplistic and not supported by the knowledge of physiology shared by the scientific community. In addition, there is no logical reason to believe that her products—or any other herbal products—can actually do any of these things."
- "I could find no evidence online that she has documented her success rate in any meaningful way or conducted any comparative study."
[Barrett S. A skeptical look at the activities of Farrah Agustin-Bunch, M.D. Quackwatch. Aug. 25, 2018]
Hydrogen peroxide hucksterism exposed. According to a new investigative report:
- "35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide" is widely available in health food stores and promoted with numerous testimonials on Web sites to treat Lyme disease, skin problems, leukemia, brain tumors, and other ailments.
- Health benefits are often promised from drinking a few drops of hydrogen peroxide diluted in a glass of water.
- According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no official definition for "food-grade."
- Following reports of injuries and death, FDA issued warnings about internal use of hydrogen peroxide in 1989 and 2006.
- No scientific evidence supports the use of hydrogen peroxide as a remedy.
- Two individuals ended up at Detroit Receiving Hospital with gas blockages in the bloodstream caused by hydrogen peroxide and would have died or likely been permanently disabled without emergency intervention with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
- Nearly 300 cases of poisoning caused by the ingestion of high-concentration hydrogen peroxide were reported to the National Poison Data System between 2001 and 2011. Among them were 41 life-threatening gas blockages in the bloodstream.
- Hydrogen peroxide poisoning may be confused with other medical problems and not get reported.
- Serious health problems have resulted from accidental ingestion of hydrogen peroxide.
- The Illinois Poison Center advises consumers regarding solutions of greater than 12% hydrogen peroxide: "Don't buy it! Don't try it! Don't bring it in your house! End of discussion."
- Concentrated (at least 35%) hydrogen peroxide is considered a "chemical of interest" by the Department of Homeland Security, a high-priority precursor chemical that can be used to build improvised explosive devices.
- The thwarted bomber in a 2016 New York City terror plot was found to have ordered 40 pounds of concentrated hydrogen peroxide.
- The U.S. Postal Service considers hydrogen peroxide a hazardous material and doesn't accept shipments of hydrogen peroxide at greater than 20% concentrations.
- The sale of anything greater than 12% hydrogen peroxide is banned in the U.K. to individuals without a license.
- The Texas State Board of Pharmacy and the Texas Department of State Health Services both received copies of an FDA warning letter in November 2006 to hydrogen peroxide marketer Mark Ovard, then of Wolfe, Texas, but neither state agency appears to have taken any action after Ovard failed to make changes FDA requested. Ovard now works out of Crystal River, Florida and is associated with a network of companies that promote hydrogen peroxide. [Savage K. How peddlers of 'food-grade' hydrogen peroxide exploit the sick and the desperate. Undark. August 20, 2018]
Dr. Barrett, who commented in the article on the overall failure of regulatory agencies to stop the marketing of such products, pointed out that no regulation or policy will be effective until their sale is no longer profitable.
Sale of kid-friendly labeled e-cigarette liquids halted. After receiving warning letters from the FDA, and in some cases from the Federal Trade Commission, 17 manufacturers, distributors and retailers have stopped selling nicotine-containing products that resemble kid-friendly food products, such as juice boxes, candy or cookies. [Companies cease sales of e-liquids with labeling or advertising that resembled kid-friendly foods following FDA, FTC warnings. FDA News Release, Aug. 23, 2018]
Skeptic Zone interviews Dr. Barrett. Richard Saunders has posted a 15-minute discussion with Dr. Stephen Barrett about quackery, excessive drug prices, and inadequate medical device regulation. [The Skeptic Zone #514, Aug. 26, 2018] The discussion begins at 5:24 of the podcast.
This page was posted on August 26, 2018.