Consumer Health Digest #18-47

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 25, 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.

Stem-cell clinic hype exposed. Several investigative journalists have documented the egregious ways that for-profit stem cell clinics in the United States mislead patients:

Commenting on these investigations, Professor Paul Knoepfler wrote:

More investigations by news teams are ongoing and will shed additional light on the worst clinics, which again I think can rightly be called snake oil clinics. Along with the bad press as lawsuits and documented patient harms accumulate, you'd think at some point a potential Achilles heel for the worst clinics and their providers would be inability to get malpractice insurance. [Knoepfler P. Several new investigations expose 'snake oil' stem cell clinics. The Niche, Nov 20, 2018]

Dietary supplement marketers warned about opioid use disorder claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to Jack B Goods Outlet Store for its Tianaa Red, Tianaa White, and Tianaa Green products and to MA Labs for its Vicaine product. [FDA warns marketers of products labeled as dietary supplements that contain tianeptine for making unproven claims to treat serious conditions, including opioid use disorder. FDA News Release. Nov 20, 2018] Each of these products has been marketed as a dietary supplement that contains tianeptine sodium, a compound associated with adverse events that have been reported to the FDA. The challenged claims include:

Lead found in spices, herbal products, and ceremonial powders. The North Carolina Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has identified 59 homes where 61 children ranging from 0.9 to 6.6 years old had elevated blood lead levels (≥5 μg/dL) and found that 28.8% of the 386 samples of spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders in the residences contained ≥1 of mg/kg lead. [Angelon-Gaetz KA and others. Lead in spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders sampled from home investigations for children with elevated blood levels—North Carolina, 2011-2018. MMWR 67:1290-1294, 2018]. Of the contaminated products, 11% were not intended for consumption but young children may ingest them when within reach. Most of the families were of Asian decent. but some were African American or Hispanic. Children with chronic lead exposure can suffer developmental delays and behavioral problems. The investigators noted:

Increasing testing of spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders for heavy metals by food safety regulators at the port of entry when these substances are imported into the United States might reduce the occurrence of lead poisoning associated with these substances. Because these products are sold nationwide, setting a national maximum allowable limit for lead in spices and herbal remedies might further reduce the risk for lead exposure from them.

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This page was posted on November 25, 2018.