Consumer Health Digest #18-43
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 28, 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 marketing by cancer treatment centers investigated. In a yearlong investigation, Truth in Advertising, Inc. (TINA.org) examined the marketing materials of the 50 U.S. cancer centers that spent the most on advertising in 2017 and found:
- The for-profit chain Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) accounted for nearly $69 million of the more than $140 million cancer treatment advertising expenditure.
- 43 (90%) out of 48 of the centers still in business in 2018 were deceptively promoting atypical patient experiences through the use of powerful testimonials.
- The deceptive advertising included more than 700 testimonials featuring patients with cancer types with less than a 50% five-year survival rate that: (a) stated or implied that treatment at a particular cancer center will enable patients to beat the odds and live beyond five years, and (b) failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose the typical survival for such patients.
[Cancer care: the deceptive marketing of hope. TINA.org. Oct 22, 2018] TINA.org has notified each of the cancer centers of its findings and complained to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about CTCA. In 1996, the FTC obtained a consent order that required CTCA to ensure that testimonials do not misrepresent the typical experience of their patients. The order expired in 2016.
Data on adulterated dietary supplements summarized. Researchers who analyzed data in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's database on tainted products marketed as dietary supplements have reported that, from 2007 through 2016, unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients were identified in 776 dietary supplements, many of which were marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss, or muscle building. The most common adulterants were sildenafil in sexual enhancement products, sibutramine in weight loss products, and synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients in muscle-building products. There were 157 products (20.2%) containing more than one unapproved ingredient and 28 products named in two or three warnings more than six months apart. [Tucker J. and others. Unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients included in dietary supplements associated with US Food and Drug Administration warnings. JAMA Network Open 1(6):e183337, 2018.]
College of Chiropractors of B.C. warns against false advertising. The College of Chiropractors of British Columbia has warned all chiropractors in the province that they have until November 1st to remove all scientifically unsupported efficacy claims, whether created or posted, from their Web sites, social media, and printed advertising, or face potential discipline. The regulatory body's efficacy claims policy statement is:
Due to the absence of acceptable evidence supporting such claims, registrants must NOT represent to patients or the public that chiropractic:
- can be used to treat diseases, disorders or conditions such as: Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, infections, infertility, or Tourette's syndrome, or
- has any beneficial effect on childhood diseases, disorders or conditions such as: ADHD (or ADD), autism spectrum disorders including Asperger syndrome, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, or developmental and speech disorders.
The above list of diseases, disorders or conditions is neither final nor conclusive. Absent acceptable evidence, registrants are not free to make claims about the effectiveness of chiropractic in treating a disorder, disease or condition simply because it is not included in the list.
Some chiropractors in the province, including board members of the regulatory body, have advertised services outside of their legally mandated scope of practice. According to the College's annual report for 2017/2018, 19 of 43 complaints received about chiropractors concerned misleading advertisements. Almost all of the false advertising complaints came from other chiropractors or internal investigators at the college. Skeptics note that under the advertising policy chiropractors will continue to be permitted to falsely advertise about the benefits of chiropractic treatment of supposed subluxations and for some types of infant and child care. [Lindsay B. Chiropractor crackdown: College gives ultimatum on misleading health claims. CBC News, Oct 15, 2018]
Anti-vaccine chiropractor's clinic shut down. Dena Churchill, D.C., has announced that she closed her Halifax clinic after the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors suspended her chiropractic license and ordered her to shut down the clinic. A spokesperson for the regulatory body said it is continuing to investigate Churchill's online posts about issues outside her scope of practice, but he did not confirm that regulatory actions were taken against Churchill. [Campbell F. Anti-vaxxing statements led to Oxford Chiropractors clinic closure. The Chronicle Herald. Oct 22, 2018] Churchill's personal and professional Facebook pages have promoted implausible health claims including: (a) associations of vaccines with autism and cancer, and (b) the notion that bras are a greater cancer risk than smoking. [Controversial chiropractor ordered to shut down practice. CBC News, Oct 19, 2018]
Goop.com still marketing non-validated health products. After Gwyneth Paltrow denied in a BBC interview that that she and her Goop business are engaged in promoting and peddling pseudoscience, Dr. Jen Gunter classified 110 products promoted in the goop.com wellness store into these categories: supplements (54), urogenital health (16), crystal-based (4), essential oils (31), and other (5). She judged only 10 of the products as having any kind of valid claim and many of the others as having claims flouting common sense. Gunter wrote:
In addition to the wellness products, much of the health information presented on goop.com was associated with pseudoscientific beliefs. Another prominent feature is trusted physician experts who endorse conspiracy theories, such as AIDS denialism, vaccines causing autism, bras causing breast cancer, and fluoride causing harm.
[I reviewed all 161 of GOOP's wellness products for pseudoscience. Here's what I found. Dr. Jen Gunter, Oct 13, 2018]
This page was posted on October 28, 2018.