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:

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.

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 fda-covid-19-fraudulent-products@fda.hhs.gov


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This page was revised on April 7, 2020.