Consumer Health Digest #19-46

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
November 17, 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.


Weight-loss products found to be leading mass market consumer fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has released the findings of a consumer survey which found that 15.9% of respondents (40 million U.S. adults) were victims of fraud in 2017. The most common type of fraud victimization was fraudulent weight-loss products which affected 2.6% of the survey participants. An estimated 10.0 million incidents of weight-loss fraud occurred in 2017. [Anderson KB. Mass-market consumer fraud in the United States: A 2017 update. Staff Report of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Economics, October 2019]


Unlicensed practitioner sentenced for deadly butt injections. Donna Francis, an unlicensed operator of a fraudulent medical clinic in Queens, New York, will be sentenced to 1 year in prison under the terms of a guilty plea to criminally negligent homicide. Press reports indicate that Francis was paid $1,600 for unapproved silicone injections intended to enhance the backside of 34-year-old Kelley Mayhew, who died when the silicone traveled through her bloodstream. [Fleischer J. Yarborough R. Woman pleads guilty in fatal butt injection case; will serve 1 year behind bars. NBC Washington, Oct 18, 2019]


Dollar Tree stores warned about adulterated drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Greenbrier International, Inc., doing business as Dollar Tree, for receiving over-the-counter (OTC) drugs produced by foreign manufacturers with repeated violations of current good manufacturing practices. The drugs have been sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores under the Assured Brand and as other drug products. The foreign manufacturers received warning letters for similar issues between 2016 and 2019 and have been placed on import alert to prevent importation into the U.S. market. [FDA issues warning letter to Dollar Tree stores for receiving potentially unsafe drugs. FDA news release, Nov 14, 2019]


Trends in U.S. use of tobacco and e-cigarettes reported. An analysis of National Health Interview Survey data from 2018 has found that, among U.S. adults, cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product, but cigarette smoking has declined dramatically since 1965 to 13.7%, the lowest level on record. [Creamer MR and others. Tobacco product use and cessation indicators among adults—United States, 2018. MMWR 68:1013-1019, 2019] Other key findings for 2018 were:

An analysis of the National Youth Tobacco Survey data found that, in 2018, high school and middle school students reported significantly higher use of e-cigarettes ("vaping") but lower use of most smoked and smokeless tobacco products than reported in 2011. Gentzke AS and others. Tobacco product use among middle and high school students—United States, 2011-2018. MMWR 68:157-164, 2019]

The findings for high school students included:

The findings for middle school students included:


Chemical of concern identified for vaping lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed concern that vitamin E acetate, which is used as a thickening agent in some THC-containing e-cigarette products, is associated with lung injury among users. THC is a mind-altering chemical found in marijuana. Evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out possible contributions of other chemicals [Outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. CDC. November 14, 2019 update] As of November 13, 2,172 cases of vaping-associated lung injuries have been reported from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and all states except Alaska, and 42 deaths have been confirmed in 24 states. The CDC recommends avoidance of THC-containing vaping products.


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This page was posted on November 17, 2019.