Consumer Health Digest #19-35
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 1, 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.
Chiropractor sentenced for allergy testing scam. In February 2019, the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners accused Benjamin Darrow, D.C. of unprofessional conduct related to criminal charges that he had defrauded insurance companies. The charges centered around his billing for ALCAT tests for "intolerances" to foods and other environmental substances. ALCAT tests are not recognized as valid by the scientific community and are not covered by most insurance programs. [Barrett S. Chiropractor prosecuted for false billing for ALCAT testing. Chirobase, Aug 30, 2019] According to the accusation, Darrow managed to get paid by using false billing codes and pretending that the tests were done in his offices. In May 2019, Darrow pleaded "no contest" to the criminal charges and agreed to pay restitution plus investigative and court costs. In August 2019, he was sentenced to serve a year in jail, ordered to pay $877,000 in restitution, and serve six years and four months on probation following his jail term during which he is not to practice chiropractic. [Nero M. San Mateo County chiropractor sentenced for insurance fraud. Patch.com, Aug 29, 2019]
Chiropractors who promoted neuropathy reversal investigated. Two recent televised reports by "News4 Investigates" of Nashville, Tennessee have focused on chiropractor Christopher Richards, who advertised "medicine-free treatment" of neuropathy at his clinic, Advanced Medical of Nashville. The first report revealed:
- Richards touted his treatments with testimonials.
- He had been a frequent guest on Nashville lifestyle shows for years.
- A patient said he prepaid Richards $5,300 after a consultation in which Richards promised he would be cured within 10 treatment sessions.
- The patient said that his pain had not decreased after the 10 sessions and that Richards told him to come back for two more weeks of treatment.
- When the patient had returned for treatment, he found that the practice had closed.
- Richards has filed for bankruptcy. [Finley J. After patients pre-paid for treatment for pain, doctor suddenly shuts down office. WSMV.com, July 18, 2019]
The second report added:
- Richards' promotional materials indicated that medical treatments for neuropathy don't work, but that his treatments can "even reverse neuropathy."
- Following the first report, News4 Investigates was flooded with calls and emails from Richards' patients.
- Five dissatisfied patients interviewed on camera claimed that Richards said that there was more than a 90% chance that they could be cured of neuropathy (even though neuropathy is incurable).
- Patients said they were led to prepay as much as $6,800 for Richards' treatments. [Finley J. Patients with incurable disease claim doctor offered cure, took their money and closed office. WSMV.com, Aug 31, 2019]
The Tennessee Department of Health database indicates that no regulatory action has been taken against Richards.
Another investigative team has reported on the neuropathy program at Optimal Health/Straw Chiropractic in Southern California. The report, which aired in August, focused on a dissatisfied patient who had spent more than $10,000.
Former practitioners blast homeopathy. Natalie Grams, who practiced as a "classical" homeopathic physician in Heidelberg from 2009 to 2015, has since become a skeptical activist providing clear, enlightening critical examinations of homeopathy. Her 2015 book Homeopathy Reconsidered: What Really Helps Patients was written in German, but an updated English language version was published in January 2019 by Springer. In a more recent critique, she wrote:
As a result of its survival, homeopathy has repeatedly come into conflict with science and modern medicine: By the criteria of modern, evidence-based medicine, it is not efficient at all and should not be practiced. However, its adherents and practitioners persist that homeopathy is effective, using different, often contradictory arguments to try to demonstrate its validity. On the one hand, they bend and interpret studies to the effect that homeopathy does have an impact beyond the placebo effect and clamor for its recognition by the scientific and medical community. On the other hand, adherents of Hahnemann's method are quick to dismiss science and evidence-based medicine altogether as being insufficient to explain its effect. [Grams N. Homeopathy—where is the science? EMBO Reports, e47761, 2019]
In 2016, Springer published Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts—written by Edzard Ernst, M.D.—who embraced homeopathy early in his medical career but now regards it as "make-believe medicine."
Aromatherapy debunked. Joe Schwarcz, Ph.D. who directs McGill University's Office for Science & Society, has summarized the chemistry and marketing of essential oil products used for aromatherapy. [Schwarcz J. The right chemistry: the science and pseudoscience of essential oils. Montreal Gazette, Aug 23, 2019] He notes:
Sales of essential oils are dominated by multi-level marketing (MLM) companies that snare potential participants with promises of wealth through a commission system. Unfortunately, this often drives individuals to make outlandish claims about using the oils to treat cancer, autism, Alzheimer's disease, mononucleosis or arthritis. There seems to be an oil for any condition that potential customers have. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States has sent warning letters to the major MLM companies, resulting in more careful wording of claims, but there is no way to police what parties say in the privacy of a home, where most sales are made.
His report includes an engaging three-minute video.
"Nobetes" customers sent refund checks. The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it is mailing 398 checks totaling $60,791 to consumers nationwide who bought "Nobetes," a pill deceptively advertised as an effective diabetes treatment. The individual amounts sent to each consumer cover the cost for those who requested a refund . [FTC refunds consumers who bought deceptively marketed and advertised "Nobetes" diabetes treatment supplement. FTC press release, Aug 21, 2019] In 2018, Nobetes Corporation was banned from selling diabetes products as part of a stipulated order for permanent injunction and monetary judgment.
This page was posted on September 2, 2019.