Consumer Health Digest #18-50

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 16, 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.

Infrared sauna device hype debunked. Dr. Stephen Barrett has spotlighted promotional efforts by the Skilling Institute, a company that has claimed that its devices are effective against a gamut of diseases through dubious mechanisms such as re-establishing "ideal vibrational frequencies and harmonic energy states of each individual cell of the body" and "life-force energy transmission." One device is the Photon Genie, a desktop device that can be purchased for $2,995 or leased for about $125 per month. The other is the six-foot high Photon-Genius (also marketed under the name "Super Sauna") that can be purchased for $24,700 plus shipping or leased by practitioners for about $1,000 per month. In 2012, buyers of the Photon-Genius were required to sign an "acknowledgment and waiver of liability" form stating they they were not government agents and would excuse the company of responsibility for any of its actions. In January 2017, a Missouri couple sued the Skilling Institute and Warren Starnes, charging that they had bought a Photon-Genius after being led to believe that it had helped people with Lyme disease and multiple sclerosis. In 2018, the case was settled with undisclosed payment to the plaintiffs. Dr. Barrett reported that he could find no listing for the company or devices in the FDA's Establishment Registration & Device Listing database, where companies involved in the production and distribution of medical devices are supposed to register. In 2009, the FDA sent a warning letter ordering the company to stop claiming that the Photo-Genie was effective against swine flu. However, the agency has ignored other dubious claims made at that time and thereafter. [Barrett S. A skeptical look at the Photon-Genius and its marketing. Device Watch. Dec 11, 2018]

Consumers warned to avoid Rhino male enhancement products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to purchase or use Rhino male enhancement products and has identified more than 25 products marketed with variations of the name "Rhino" that contained hidden drug ingredient(s). These products continue to be sold at gas stations, convenience stores, on eBay, and on Amazon. The FDA has received reports of people experiencing chest pain, severe headaches and prolonged erections after taking a Rhino product that led to surgical intervention and hospitalization due to extreme drops in blood pressure. [FDA warns consumers to avoid Rhino male enhancement products found at retailers because of undeclared and potentially dangerous drug ingredients. FDA News Release. Nov 27, 2018. In October, Nam Hyun Lee, 60, was arrested without incident at his residence in Fullerton, California after being named in a 12-count federal indictment that accuses him of illegally selling Rhino and several other products that contained the erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis (tadalafil) or Viagra (sildenafil) that he falsely marketed as herbal supplements for men. Lee, also known as "Daniel Lee," is a South Korean national believed to be illegally residing in the United States. The indictment charges him with conspiracy, three counts of smuggling misbranded drugs into the United States, and eight counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of funds contained in several bank accounts, an as-yet undetermined amount of cash seized during the execution of search warrants, and a $1.2 million residence in Fullerton that prosecutors allege was purchased with proceeds from the illegal activity. If convicted, Lee could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.. [Fullerton man arrested on federal charges alleging illegal importation and sale of male sexual enhancement drugs. U.S. Department of Justice Press Release. Oct 31, 2018]

Cosmetic contact lens seller violated FTC Contact Lens Rule. Lawrence L. Duskin, a California-based online seller of non-corrective, decorative contact lenses, will pay a $60,000 penalty and be banned from all contact lens sales, under a stipulated order that settles allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that he has violated the FTC's Contact Lens Rule since at least 2014. Duskin is permanently banned from advertising, marketing, promoting, dispensing, or selling contact lenses, as well as assisting anyone else in doing so. If found to have misrepresented his financial condition to the Commission, he will have to pay an additional $515,000. Under the Contact Lens Rule, sellers may provide contact lenses to consumers only after either obtaining a copy of a valid prescription for the consumer or verifying the prescription with the prescriber. Sellers may not dispense lenses using an expired prescription, and may only substitute lenses under certain conditions, as specified in the Rule. The Rule applies to both corrective lenses and non-corrective, decorative lenses. According to the FTC's complaint, Duskin marketed and sold decorative contact lenses online through,, and without obtaining the required prescription, failed to verify prescription information, and failed to keep the records required by the Rule. [Online seller to pay $60,000 penalty for violating the Contact Lens Rule. FTC Press Release. Dec 6, 2018]

Insurance fraud conspiracy led patients to unnecessary surgery. This month a chiropractor became the second of a dozen defendants to plead guilty for participating in a $150 million workers' compensation scheme that allegedly billed insurance companies for falsified office visits, fake MRIs, prescription drugs, and led patients to invasive, sometimes unnecessary surgeries. The chiropractor, Paul Turley of Granada Hills, California, made a factual basis plea to one count each of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, mayhem, insurance fraud, and unlawful patient referral; he faces up to eight years in state prison. Last year, co-defendant Marissa Nelson pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and admitted a special allegation of taking property of a value exceeding $3.2 million dollars. She faces up to nine years in state prison. Among the others indicted are orthopedic surgeon Munir Uwaydah, M.D. and his office manager, Wendee Luke, both of whom are fugitives. Nearly two dozen patients allegedly were deceived into having operations they thought would be performed by Dr. Uwaydah but were actually performed by a physician assistant without the surgeon present. Most of these patients incurred lasting scars and many needed additional surgery to repair the original damage. The other defendants await trial. [Chiropractor pleads in $150 million insurance fraud scheme. Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office News Release. Dec 5, 2018] Dr. Turley's license status is currently listed as valid by California's Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Dr. Uwaydah's California medical license status is currently listed as delinquent. In 2009, The Medical Board of California charged him with (a) fraud involving the purchase of a CT scanner and (b) gross negligence that included permitting a physician assistant to begin operations with two patients who were under general anesthesia without Uwaydah being present. The case was settled in 2010 with a stipulated agreement under which Uwaydah was placed on probation for two years during which he was barred from supervising physician assistants.

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This page was revised on December 18, 2018.