Consumer Health Digest #19-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 27, 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.

35 people charged in huge cancer-testing scheme. Thirty-five individuals associated with dozens of telemedicine companies and laboratories have been charged with fraudulently billing Medicare more than $2.1 billion for expensive cancer genetic (CGx) tests. Nine of the defendants are medical doctors. The various indictments include charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and substantive counts of health care fraud and receiving kickbacks. [Federal law enforcement action involving fraudulent genetic testing results in charges against 35 individuals responsible for over $2.1 billion in losses in one of the largest health care fraud schemes ever charged. U.S. Department of Justice news release, Sept 27, 2019] Various defendants allegedly:

One of the defendants, Khalid Satary, is an entrepreneur connected with diagnostic labs in four states who was supposed to have been deported more than a decade ago. [Joyner C. Gwinett man defrauded $500 million in bogus lab tests, U.S. alleges. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Oct 19, 2019]

Genetic testing fraud alert issued. The U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) has warned the public about scammers who offer Medicare beneficiaries "free" screenings or cheek swabs for genetic testing in order to obtain their Medicare information for identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes. Beneficiaries could be responsible for the thousands of dollars charged for the testing if Medicare denies the claims. [Fraud Alert: Genetic Testing Scam. OIG, updated Sept 27. 2019] OIG advises consumers:

More companies warned about illegal CBD advertising. In September, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned three unnamed companies marketing cannabidiol (CBD)-containing products that it is illegal to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support such claims. CBD is a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant. [FTC sends warning letters to companies advertising their CBD-infused products as treatments for serious diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis. FTC press release, Sept 10, 2019] According to the FTC:

This month, the FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a joint warning letter to Rooted Apothecary, LLC for selling CBD products online with unsubstantiated claims that the products can treat autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, among other conditions. [FTC and FDA warn Florida company marketing CBD products about claims related to treating autism, ADHD, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other medical conditions. FTC press release, Oct 22, 2019] As described in the letter, the Florida-based company used its online store and social media sites to make health and efficacy claims that included:

Earlier this year, the FTC and FDA issued similar joint warning letters to three other CBD sellers.

Podcast features Dr. Barrett's anti-quackery activities. The House of Pod has broadcast a 20-minute interview in which Dr. Stephen Barrett shares some things he has learned during his 50-year battle with quackery. Dr. Barrett's portion begins at minute 19.

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This page was posted on October 24 , 2019.