Consumer Health Digest #20-13
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 5, 2020
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.
Pseudomedicine persists at UC Irvine. Despite publicly announced assurances from the medical brass at the University of California that its Samueli College of Health Sciences would be rigorously evidence-based, the College's Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute (SSIHI) is promoting implausible, non-evidence-based therapies that include functional medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, IV infusion therapies, ayurvedic therapies, and Arvigo® Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy (for supposedly improving organ function). The College's Department of Family Medicine, in collaboration with SSIHI, is developing a training track for primary care that uses "the tools and philosophies of integrative medicine." [Bellamy J. Quackademic medicine update: UC Irvine reneges on promise of scientific rigor. Science-Based Medicine. Feb 27, 2020] The Samuel College was named after UC Irvine received a $200 million gift from Henry and Susan Samueli which required that most of the money go to support "integrative medicine."
Role for naturopaths against COVID-19 refuted. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians is irresponsibly claiming that naturopaths (a) can "support other medical professionals in changing the trajectory of" the COVID-19 pandemic and (b) "employ a toolkit of treatment approaches . . . to support the body's inherent immune capacity to prevent viral infections, address viral infections directly, ease symptoms in those infected, and support recovery during post-infection care." [London WM. Can naturopathic doctors combat COVID-19? Skeptical Inquirer. April 2, 2020] Quackwatch provides a detailed description of naturopathy's shortcomings.
Rejuvi marketer settles allegations of deceptive cure-all claims. Nevada-based Health Center, Inc. (HCI) and its owner Peggy Pearce agreed to halt their allegedly deceptive advertising claims about three "cure-all" health and wellness products that targeted older consumers nationwide. [Health Center, Inc. settles FTC allegations that it targeted older consumers with deceptive claims for health and wellness products. FTC press release. March 19, 2020] According to a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission, HCI allegedly advertised and sold these products through its Web sites and in telemarketing calls:
- Rejuvi-Cell, a purportedly homeopathic oral spray, was said to contain human growth hormone
- Rejuvi-Sea, sold in caplet form and marketed as containing marine phytoplankton
- Rejuvi-Stem, sold in tablet form, advertised as a "stem cell recruiter" that enhances, releases, and recruits adult stem cells so they can migrate to parts of the body where needed most
The complaint alleged that the defendants advertised that the products could treat or cure a wide range of serious diseases and health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression, without having the scientific evidence to back up their claims. They were also charged with claiming that Rejuvi-Cell contained human growth hormone, when it actually only contained pig growth hormone. The stipulated settlement prohibits the defendants from such deceptive conduct and imposes an $8.62 million judgment that will be suspended after they pay the FTC $5,000.
More regulatory woes for Herbalife. Global direct sales company Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. has recently extended its decades-long record of being the subject of regulatory actions.
- Last year, it agreed to pay $20 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that it made false and misleading statements in numerous U.S. regulatory filings about the compensation model for its China-based service providers. SEC alleged that the actual model used is multilevel and based on downline purchases rather than hours worked. While direct selling is permitted in China, multilevel marketing is not. SEC found that Herbalife's misleading statements deprived investors of the information they needed to fully evaluate the risk of investing in Herbalife stock. [Herbalife to pay $20 million for misleading investors. US Securities and Exchange Commission press release. Sept 27, 2019]
- Two former company executives, Yanliang Li and Hongwei Yang, were charged in November on criminal and civil charges of violating the FCPA. [Tokar D. Former Herbalife executives charged with conspiracy to bribe Chinese officials. Wall Street Journal. Nov 15, 2019] They allegedly (a) bribed Chinese officials to obtain sales permits and to influence government investigations into the company's compliance with Chinese laws and (b) attempted to hide the bribes by providing false sworn testimony to the SEC and wiping clean computer files.
- This year Herbalife reportedly set aside $40 million in preparation for resolving U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Commission investigations focused on the company's compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). [Tokar D. Herbalife sets aside $40 million for bribery settlement. Wall Street Journal. March 2, 2020]
Since there are at least 50 known cases of liver damage or fatal liver failure in users of Herbalife products while evidence is lacking that they improve health, consumers have good reason to be wary. [Hall H. Herbalife or herbadeath? Science-Based Medicine. Sept 10, 2019]
Liver failure in 23-year-old attributed to supplement. Previously healthy Emily Goss, 23, developed acute liver failure that her doctors suspect was caused by to taking four doses of Balance by Alani Nu per day for four months (the dosage recommended in the product label). [Castro B. Doctors believe health supplement led to 23-year-old's acute liver failure. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. Jan 10, 2020] An online ad for the product states that it is "strategically designed to support hormonal balance, weight management, complexion, and fertility. Enjoy restorative sleep, improved energy levels, and more."
Where to report fraudulent COVID-19 products. To deal with the surge in products falsely claimed to prevent or cure coronavirus products, the FDA has set up a special e-mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was revised on April 7, 2020.