Consumer Health Digest #19-40
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 6, 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.
Attorney sanctioned for filing "frivolous" suit against Dr. Barrett. After dismissing a libel suit against Dr. Stephen Barrett, a federal district court judge ordered the attorney who filed it to pay $10,000 to Dr. Barrett's attorneys.
- In 2015, Drs. Robert M. Goldman and Ronald Klatz filed a lawsuit claiming that an article Dr. Barrett posted to Quackwatch had libeled them and interfered with their business enterprises. The article, posted in 2001, contained the text of a disciplinary order plus a four-sentence summary that mentioned that the pair had been associated for many years in activities related to "anti-aging medicine" and the promotion of dietary supplements.
- In 2016, the judge ruled that the article was not defamatory and the suit had been filed too long after the article's publication. Goldman and Klatz then filed an amended complaint that falsely accused Barrett of making statements to Malaysian and Chinese government officials that caused them to withdraw lucrative proposals to help set up and consult for health facilities in their countries. No such conversations had taken place.
- In 2017, the judge dismissed the amended complaint and granted permission to file a motion to sanction, which was done.
- In September 2019, the judge ordered Attorney Wesley J. Paul to pay a $10,000 sanction for (a) filing an amended complaint containing "vague and implausible allegations which he had to have known were based on no more than speculation" and (b) failing to drop the suit when confronted with evidence that its claims were untrue.
Dr. Barrett was represented by Charles Michael and Michael A. Keough of Steptoe & Johnson, which provided all services pro bono. Quackwatch has a detailed description of the case and links to the important documents.
Lax oversight of compounding pharmacies exposed. In a recent 19-minute segment of his HBO program Last Week Tonight, comedian John Oliver exposed problems associated with compounding pharmacies, including:
- Tricare patients received ineffective scar and pain creams with each ingredient billed individually, which resulted in $2 billion of billing
- infections due to contamination
- improper storage
- manufacturing in bulk with fake patient names recorded to provide the illusion that drugs were custom-made for specific individuals
- drugs intended for administration into eyes were tainted with formaldehyde and acetone
- not enough state pharmacy board inspectors to adequately regulate the industry
FDA restricts ingredients in compounded drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has initiated a new rule and proposed another rule prohibiting several unsafe or ineffective ingredients naturopathic doctors wish to use in compounded drugs. A consortium of organizations that appear on Quackwatch's list of questionable organizations is working to block the evidence-based consideration by the FDA of the consortium's favored ingredients for compounding. [Bellamy J. FDA proposes ban on curcumin and other naturopathic favorites in compounded drugs. Science-Based Medicine, Sept 26, 2019]
Naturopath banned for life in New South Wales. The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission has permanently barred self-described naturopath and nutritionist Barbara O'Neill from providing any health services either voluntarily or in a paid capacity, including giving lectures. After receiving complaints and conducting an investigation, the commission found O'Neill:
- never held any membership with any accredited professional health organization
- failed to obtain any relevant health-related degrees or diplomas
- failed to keep records of consultations with clients
- falsely claimed to be able to cure cancer
- did not treat clients in a safe or ethical manner
- posed a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.
O'Neill lectures internationally (usually at events organized by the Seventh Day Adventist Church), authored health books, and appears in YouTube videos promoting misinformation. She told clients that their cancer was a fungus that could be cured with probiotics and bicarbonate soda at a 90% success rate and discouraged mainstream cancer treatment, antibiotic use, and vaccination. She offered dangerous advice about diet for babies and discouraged clients from including fruits and carbohydrates in their diets. [Davey M. Naturopath who said bicarbonate soda cures cancer banned for life by health watchdog. The Guardian, Oct 3, 2019]
AdvoCare to pay $150 million to settle charges it operated illegal pyramid scheme. Texas-based multi-level marketer AdvoCare International, L.P., its former chief executive officer Brian Connoly, and two former top distributors have settled an FTC complaint that they deceived consumers into believing they could earn significant income as "distributors" of its health and wellness products. In 2016, however, 72.3% of distributors did not earn any compensation from AdvoCare; another 18% earned between one cent and $250; and another 6% earned between $250 and $1,000. The annual earnings distribution was nearly identical for 2012 through 2015. [Multi-level marketer AdvoCare will pay $150 million to settle FTC charges it operated an illegal pyramid scheme. FTC press release, Oct 2, 2019] The settlement agreements call for (a) Advocare and Connoly to pay $150 million and be banned from the multi-level marketing business, and (b) former distributors Carlton Hardman and Lisa Hardman to be banned and pay at least $100,000. Advocare, founded in 1991, markets dietary supplements, weight-management products, and sports-performance products.
This page was posted on October 7, 2019.