Consumer Health Digest #19-41
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 13, 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.
Unsupported prescription drug price increases spotlighted. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) has published its first annual report on Unsupported Price Increases (UPI) of prescription drugs in the United States. The report identified seven drugs that were responsible for increasing US drug spending by more than $5.1 billion from 2017 to 2018, even though no new uses for them had been demonstrated. [ICER identifies costliest US drug-price hikes that are not supported by new clinical evidence. ICER announcement, Oct 8, 2019] These drugs, in order of the impact of their price increases, are: Humira® (adalimumab, AbbVie), Rituxan® (rituximab, Genentech), Lyrica® (pregabalin, Pfizer), Truvada® (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, Gilead), Neulasta® (pegfilgrastim, Amgen), Cialis® (tadalafil, Eli Lilly; and Tecfidera®(dimethyl fumarate, Biogen).
Banned naturopaths still advertising their services. The New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission has permanently prohibited Aleksander Strande, an unregistered health practitioner, from providing any health service. The Commission found that Strande:
- operated a naturopathy business called Express Healing
- willfully misrepresented and overstated to the Commission and to the public the level of his qualifications and his competence to treat serious illnesses
- made unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of his recommended treatments
- lacked the knowledge and expertise to determine whether the products he provides to clients may have adverse reactions with their prescribed medications
- failed to provide information to clients regarding the herbal medicines
- pressured clients to continue treatment with him despite complaints of adverse side effects
- was unwilling to seriously reflect on his practice and has no insight into the limitations of his training and qualifications and his competence to treat serious illnesses
Despite the Commission's action, the Express Healing Web site has continued to offer telephone consultations from numbers with Australian, German, and Polish country codes. Strande's Linked In page page currently indicates that he is operating a naturopathy business in the Houston, Texas area.
Barbara O'Neil, another naturopath who was banned for life by the Commission, also continues to advertise her services on social media. [Elder J. Shonky naturopaths claimed to cure cancer: Banned for life, still advertising. The Newdaily, Oct 5, 2019] After receiving many complaints, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission is investigating the Misty Mountain Health Retreat affiliated with O'Neill and chaired by her husband Michael O'Neill. [Davey M. Health retreat run by banned wellness coach Barbara O'Neill under investigation. The Guardian, Oct 10, 2019]
Genetic testing company settles physician referral kickback allegations. The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that UTC Laboratories, Inc. (RenRX), headquartered in New Orleans, has agreed to pay $41.6 million; and its three principals—Tarun Jolly, M.D., Patrick Ridgeway, and Barry Griffith—have agreed to pay $1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act. The alleged scheme included:
- paying kickbacks in exchange for laboratory referrals for pharmacogenetic testing
- furnishing and billing Medicare for tests that were not medically necessary
- paying physicians to induce the ordering of pharmacogenetic tests in return for their participation in a clinical trial
- paying sales commissions to other individuals and entities
RenRX also agreed to a twenty-five-year period of exclusion from participation in any federal health care program. The settlement resolved six separate cases that began as whistleblower suits. The defendants did not admit liability. [Genetic testing company and three principals agree to pay $42.6 million to resolve kickback and medical necessity claims. US Attorney's Office news release, Oct 9, 2019]
This page was posted on October 15, 2019.