Consumer Health Digest #19-26
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 30, 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.
Vaccine critic again facing disciplinary action. The Medical Board of California, has accused Robert ('Dr. Bob') William Sears, M.D. of writing letters calling for childhood-long vaccination exemptions without an appropriate medical basis for two siblings who were accompanied by their mother for "vaccine exemption appt" visits on May 4, 2016. Sears is also accused of failing to obtain and document an appropriate and accurate medical history, physical exam, and family/social history for the children. The accusation was filed two days before Sears testified at a California legislative hearing against SB 276, which would require parents who obtain exemptions to sign a release that would enable the California Department of Public Health and the Medical Board of California to review their child's records. [Haelle T. 'Dr. Bob' Sears accused of issuing invalid vaccine medical exemptions—again. Forbes, June 21, 2019] Last year, Sears was placed on probation for 35 months for improperly writing a letter exempting a 2-year-old from "all future vaccinations." Sears is a leading advocate of spacing out vaccine administration so fewer vaccines are given at once. [Snyder J. Cashing in on fear: The danger of Dr. Sears. Science-Based Medicine Blog, July 30, 2009] There is no scientific support for such a schedule. [Crislip M, Barrett S. Do children get too many immunizations. The answer is no. Quackwatch, Sept 11, 2016]
"Pastoral medicine licensee" arrested. Martin Riding has been charged with 32 felony and 32 misdemeanor counts of practicing a profession without an appropriate license. Riding did business as ReNew For Life, which offered "alternative & holistic health services" in Radford, Virginia. Riding advertised that he was licensed by the Pastoral Medical Association (PMA). PMA claims on its Web site that "regulation of the Almighty's health care concepts is outside the jurisdiction of . . . secular regulatory boards." However, regulatory actions against PMA "licensees" have been successful in several states. [Barrett S. Some Notes on the Pastoral Medical Association and other "Private Membership Associations." Credential Watch, June 24, 2019] Riding's ReNew For Life, Web site and Facebook page are no longer posted, but PMA's Web site links to a database where Riding's profile page (now inactivated) stated that his services have included: alkaline/pH balancing, Bach Floral Therapy, cancer diet coaching, essential oil therapy, Raindrop Therapy, Zyto Biometric Scan, thermography exams, and cupping. The indictment contains no details about Riding's alleged wrongdoing, but a local newspaper has reported that search warrant applications and interviews indicate that he had cameras located in exam rooms where women were directed to undress and photos of women were taken without their consent. [Gangloff M. Radford alternative medicine therapist charged with 64 counts of practicing without a license. The Roanoke Times, June 17, 2019]
Stem cell providers found lacking in training. Out of 183 companies in California, Florida, and Texas that were found in 2016 to market unproven treatments, researchers found that 166 continued to advertise on the Web in 2018. The researchers also found that many of the 608 clinicians listed on these sites offered stem cell interventions for conditions outside the scope of their training. [Fu W. and others. Characteristics and scope of training of clinicians participating in the US direct-to-consumer marketplace for unproven stem cell interventions. JAMA. 321(24):2463-2464, 2019] For example:
- Of the 157 companies with a physician, 81 (52%) had at least 1 physician with formal training matching the conditions claimed to treat with stem cells.
- Among orthopedic-focused practices, 68 (77%) had at least one physician with appropriate specialty training.
- Only 13 companies (19%) that marketed stem cells for non-orthopedic conditions had physicians practicing within their scope of training.
- 32 (5.3%) of the clinicians were said to practice "complementary and alternative medicine."
Generic drug companies sued for anti-competitive pricing. According to a 500-page lawsuit filed by 44 U.S. state prosecutors:
- Teva Pharmaceuticals orchestrated a sweeping scheme with 19 other drug companies to inflate drug prices—sometimes by more than 1,000%—and stifle competition for generic drugs.
- The 20 drug companies illegally conspired to divide up the market for drugs to avoid competing and, in some cases, conspired to either prevent prices from dropping or to raise them.
- 15 named individuals carried out the schemes on a day-to-day basis.
Evidence of the conspiracy includes emails between generic drug manufacturers (a) coordinating their response to a Congressional inquiry and (b) colluding on market allocation. [Unsealed generic drug complaint shows extent of conspiracy to fix prices. Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring press release. Jun 26, 2019]
The prosecutors seek damages, civil penalties, and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market. [Reuters. Drugmakers allegedly inflated prices over 1,000% and 44 states are now suing. CNBC, May 13, 2019] A previous generic drug antitrust lawsuit, filed in 2016, is still pending in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It now includes 18 corporate defendants, two individual defendants, and 15 generic drugs. Two former executives from Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Jeffery Glazer and Jason Malek, have entered into settlement agreements and are cooperating with the Attorneys General working group in that case.
This page was revised on July 2, 2019