Consumer Health Digest #19-06
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 10, 2019
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.
LA Times attacks misrepresentations by stem cell marketer. Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Hitzik has reported that the Global Institute of Stem Cell Therapy and Research (Giostar) has misrepresented the credentials of its owner and made false claims about the composition of its advisory board. [Hiltzik M. A stem cell clinic touts its links with leading scientists. Some say they have no such connections. Los Angeles Times. Jan 26, 2019] According the the article:
- Giostar purports to treat diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other conditions even though the only stem cell-related treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the use of umbilical cord blood for some blood diseases.
- Giostar Chief Executive Deven Patel said the firm: (a) charges up to $17,000 for a treatment involving up to three injections of stem cells, generally extracted from the patients' fat cells, (b) has treated 10,000 patients over 10 years, (c) continues to treat about 1,000 a year in Mexico or India (outside of U.S. federal jurisdiction), and (d) patients also can receive "rejuvenation" treatments with stem cells at a clinic outside Chicago.
- Giostar's chairman and co-founder (in 2008) Anand Srivastava falsely claimed on the company's Web site to have been an associate professor in the department of cellular and molecular biology at UCLA's medical school, an associate professor at UC Irvine medical school, and an assistant professor at UC San Diego medical school. He also falsely claimed to have directed the stem cell core facility at the Salk Research Institute in La Jolla and served as "senior scientist," but the institute is actually the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and he was actually hired as a researcher for one year and moved to an unpaid collaborator position.
- At least three of the scientists listed as advisors on the company Web site said they had no relationship with the company. Hitzik was unable to reach most of the rest for comment.
Vaccine scaremongering banned on app for mothers. Mush, an app for mothers to socialize with other mothers, has made this responsible announcement:
Here at Mush, we want to take a stand and say a defiant no to the anti-vax brigade. We understand that everyone wants to do what's best for their children and protect them from harm, but we know—as do the scientists—that they are much safer when we vaccinate them.
So, how are we going to implement this?
- We will block or remove all anti-vax posts with urgency
- We will give formal warnings to delete the accounts of Mush users who comment on other mums' posts with anti-vax messaging
- We will permanently ban users who are on Mush to spread this message
[Why we're protecting mums from anti-vax scaremongering. Mush. Feb 7, 2019]
Health pseudoscience opponent profiled. The Globe and Mail has profiled Professor Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and host and co-producer of the Netflix series "A User's Guide to Cheating Death." [Pruden JG. Has Tim Caulfield become the Canadian nemesis of pseudoscience? The Globe and Mail. Jan 3, 2019] Caulfield's three books are entertaining as well as factual:
- Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (2012), which examines the impact of celebrities on health fads and reports Caulfield's experiences with celebrity-driven fad practices.
- The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (2015), which describes Caulfield's experiences with additional fad practices and the lack of science behind them.
- The Vaccination Picture (2017), which explores why people oppose vaccination and why simply disseminating the facts is not enough to correct misconceptions. It is written at an 8th grade level and provides summaries rather than detailed analyses of key points.
Netflix and Delta deals with Goop criticized. Despite Gwyneth Paltrow's embrace of nonsensical health concepts, her company (Goop) has been able to make promotional deals with two major companies. Netflix plans to provide a series of 30-minute episodes starring Paltrow and other Goop personnel discussing physical and spiritual wellness, and Delta Air Lines plans to stream Goop podcasts on 600 of its planes. [McDermott M. Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop gets Netflix docu-series, Delta Air Lines-sponsored podcast. USA Today. Feb 5, 2019] Scientists have noted that such programs are likely to result in spreading health misinformation to consumers. [Basu T. Scientists Are Pissed That Netflix Is Legitimizing Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop. The Daily Beast. Feb 5, 2019; Belluz J. Netflix gives Gwyneth Paltrow's health hogwash a bigger platform with new series. Vox. Feb 7, 2019] Last year Goop was fined by California regulators for making "unsubstantiated" marketing claims.
This page was posted on February 10, 2019