Consumer Health Digest #19-50
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 22, 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.
Mercola's funding of anti-vax advocacy exposed. An investigative report has revealed that osteopathic doctor and "natural centered" health-products entrepreneur Joseph Mercola:
- contributed $2.98 million since 2009 to the vaccine fear-mongering National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), accounting for about 40% of the organization's funding
- provided his donations to NVIC via the Natural Health Research Foundation, a private foundation that is entirely funded by his business and that he leads as president
- appeared with NVIC founder Barbara Loe Fisher in a YouTube video at the beginning of last year's flu season, criticizing flu shots and suggesting vitamin D supplements were "far more effective, less expensive, and less risky alternatives"
- co-sponsored NVIC's 10th annual "vaccine awareness week" in September 2019 and offered to match all donations made to the center that week up to $100,000
- given at least $4 million to other groups that echo anti-vaccine messages
- contributed via his foundation more than $3.3 to the Organic Consumers Association
- received warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005, 2006, and 2011 about illegal promotional claims for some of his products
- in response to a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), refunded nearly $2.6 million to more than 1,300 people who bought tanning beds that he deceptively claimed could reduce the risk of skin cancer
- said in a 2017 affidavit that he had a net worth, derived largely from his network of private companies, in excess of $100 million
NVIC has displayed the logo for Mercola.com on its home page. A site affiliated with NVIC refers to Mercola.com as one of the most popular health and wellness sites. [Satiate N, Sun LH. A major funder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products. Washington Post. Dec 20, 2019] Quackwatch has summarized Mercola's history of regulatory actions and unsubstantiated promotional claims for health products.
Acupuncturist arrested for practicing without a license. In September 2019, the Rhode Island State Police arrested Tadeusz Sztykowsi—also known as "Dr. Tad"—for practicing acupuncture without a license. [Dr. Tad arrested for practicing acupuncture without a license. GoLocalProv News, Sept 12, 2019] Sztykowsi owns the Centers for Integrative Medicine and Healing in Providence, Rhode Island, which was incorporated in 1995 and assumed its current name in 2014. In addition to operating the clinic, Sztykowski has hosted The Dr. Tad Show on WPRO talk radio and appeared on WPRI Media, a pay-to-broadcast TV channel. The Rhode Island Department of Health, which regulates the licensing and practice of acupuncture, has taken several actions against Sztykowski:
- In 2013, he was ordered to stop advising patients to discontinue drugs prescribed by their physicians.
- In 2016, he was notified that a hearing would be held to determine whether he should be subject to disciplinary action for violating the 2013 order.
- In 2017, he signed a consent order under which he permanently surrendered his acupuncture license.
- In August 2019, he was ordered to stop offering healthcare services through his unlicensed clinic. [Barrett S. Rhode Island acupuncturist arrested for practicing without a license. Acupuncture Watch, Dec 14, 2019]
Contempt action filed against dietary supplement marketers. The FTC and the State of Maine have filed a contempt motion alleging that that Health Research Laboratories, LLC (HRL), Whole Body Supplements, LLC, and their owner Kramer Duhon continued to promote their products using unproven claims that they can treat and cure diseases, in violation of a 2018 FTC settlement order. The supplement marketers allegedly violated the order by: (a) claiming—without the required scientific evidence—that their Ultimate Heart Formula (UHF), BG18, and Black Garlic Botanicals supplements could treat, cure, or mitigate cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, and hypertension, and (b) mailed advertisements claiming that another supplement, Neupathic, cures, treats, or mitigates diabetic neuropathy and diabetes, also without the required supporting scientific evidence. Their mailers touted these supplements as a "miraculous natural solution" for life-threatening diseases. The 2018 FTC settlement stemmed from false and unsupported claims about two other supplements, called BioTherapex and NeuroPlus, and required that defendants have at least one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to support any claim that their products effectively cure, mitigate, or treat diseases. [FTC, State of Maine file contempt action against dietary supplement marketers. FTC press release, Dec 18, 2019]
Shortfalls hamper ending the HIV epidemic. According to a new Vital Signs report, "Ending HIV transmission: test, treat, and prevent," by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- In 2017, about 154,000 people with HIV (14%) were unaware of their status and therefore could not take advantage of HIV treatment to stay healthy, control the virus, and prevent transmitting HIV to others.
- In 2017, only 63% of those who knew they had HIV had the virus under control through effective treatment.
- Based on 2018 data from 92% of all prescriptions from U.S. retail pharmacies, about 18% (219,700) of the 1.2 million people who could benefit from pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that prevents HIV, had received a prescription for the medication (however, PrEP coverage was likely higher than these estimates).
- New HIV infections remained relatively stable, at about 38,000 per year, from 2013 to 2017.
- If funded, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A plan for America, a proposed federal initiative to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030, will increase resources, technology, and expertise where they're needed most.
[HIV testing, treatment, prevention not reaching enough Americans. CDC newsroom release, Dec 3, 2019]
This page was posted on December 23, 2019.