Consumer Health Digest #19-12

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 25, 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.

Kamala Harris's decision not to investigate Herbalife criticized. Yahoo! News has reported that, in 2015, state prosecutors in San Diego sent a lengthy memorandum asking Kamala Harris, then California's attorney general, to allocate resources to investigate Herbalife. About three weeks later, Harris reportedly received the first of three donations to her campaign for the U.S. Senate from Washington lobbyist Heather Podesta whose ex-husband Tony's firm, then called the Podesta Group, had worked for Herbalife since 2013. Harris did not pursue an investigation even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had already begun investigating the company in conjunction with the attorneys general of Illinois and New York. Critics believe that Herbalife's selling of dietary supplements through its multinational network of millions of independent distributors is a pyramid scheme and that it preys on Latina/o communities in particular. In 2016, the FTC secured a $200 million settlement from Herbalife and Harris was elected as California's junior U.S. senator. She is now seeking the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency. [Nazaryan A. Why did Kamala Harris let Herbalife off the hook? Yahoo! News. March 18, 2019]

John Oliver exposes "psychic medium" trickery and harms. In a recent 21-minute segment of his HBO program Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver provided a brilliant takedown of  "psychic mediums" who purportedly can receive messages from dead people to their loved ones. He examined how mediums deceptively use cold reading and hot reading techniques to convince vulnerable people to invest large amounts of money to receive messages from their dearly departed. Oliver cited a recent Pew Research Center survey which found that four in ten American adults believe in psychics. Pew also reported that six in ten Americans accept at least one "New Age" belief including reincarnation, astrology, psychics, and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees. [Gecewicz C. 'New Age' beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans. Pew Research Center. Oct 1, 2018]

CEASE therapy promoters ordered to cease claims. The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered 150 homeopathic practitioners to stop advertising that they can cure autism through CEASE (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) therapy. CEASE consists of highly diluted versions of recommended vaccines plus vitamin C, minerals, and fish oil. [Why so-called CEASE Therapy claims to 'cure' autism really have to stop. ASA Web site, March 22, 2019] The ASA has no jurisdiction over how homeopaths practice but can regulate how they advertise.

Marketer warned about unapproved addiction and pain products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered Nutra Pharma Corp. to stop marketing unapproved products labeled as homeopathic with claims that they can treat addiction and pain associated with cancer, diabetes, shingles, fibromyalgia and other serious conditions. The products include: "Nyloxin Oral Spray," "Nyloxin Topical Gel," "Nyloxin Topical Roll-On," "Nyloxin Topical Roll-On ES," "Nyloxin Professional Size Pump Topical Gel" and "Regular Strength Sample Pack." [FDA takes action against marketer of unapproved products claiming to treat addiction, chronic pain, and other serious conditions. FDA News Release. Mar 19, 2019] The challenged claims include:

Strategies used by adults to reduce prescription drug costs reported. Newly reported findings from the National Health Interview Survey in 2017 address strategies used by adults aged 18 to 64 to reduce their prescription drug costs. The most common strategies included asking their doctor for lower cost medication (19.5%), not taking the medicine prescribed (11.4%), and using "alternative" products (5.4%). Uninsured individuals were more likely than insured individuals to do these things. The report notes: "Cost-saving strategies to reduce prescription drug costs may have implications for health status and have been associated with increased emergency room use and hospitalizations compared with adults who follow recommended pharmacotherapy." [Strategies used by adults aged 18–64 to reduce their prescription drug costs, 2017. NCHS Data Brief No. 333. March 2019] The best way for Americans to save money from expensive prescription drugs is to order from a Canadian pharmacy verified by But the NHIS didn't ask about this.

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This page was posted on March 25, 2019.