Consumer Health Digest #20-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 31, 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.

Lab settles lawsuit alleging unnecessary testing. Genova Diagnostics, Inc., a clinical laboratory services company based in Asheville, North Carolina, has agreed to pay up to approximately $43 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act, including claims that it billed for three types of medically unnecessary lab tests. The settlement resolved allegations that the company: (a) improperly submitted claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and the federal employee health program for tests that were not medically necessary, (b) engaged in improper billing techniques, and (c) violated the Stark law, which prohibits physicians from referring patients for certain designated health services paid for by Medicare to any entity in which they have a financial relationship. Genova made no admission of liability. The company had claimed that one test could provide "immediate, actionable clinical information" managing a variety of gastrointestinal conditions, another was ideal for patients who may suffer from delayed reactions/sensitivities to specific foods, and another could guide nutritional therapies for a variety of conditions. Dr. Stephen Barrett has noted that regulators rarely investigate the clinical validity of tests used by offbeat practitioners. [Barrett S. Genova Diagnostics settles false claim act violations. Quackwatch. May 12, 2020]

Unapproved CBD and curcumin injectables recalled. Biota Biosciences has made an announcement headlined "Biota Biosciences Issues voluntary nationwide recall of Cannabidiol (CBD) Complex, Curcumin Complex, and Cannabidiol + Curcumin Injectables because they were marketed without FDA approval". The announcement stated:

The products claims on our website make these products unapproved new drugs. Further, the products are misbranded because the labeling fails to bear adequate directions for use.

Risk Statement: Unapproved new drugs injected into the bloodstream for which safety and efficacy have not been established could pose a serious risk of harm to users because they bypass many of the body's natural defenses against toxic ingredients, toxins, or dangerous organisms that can lead to serious and life-threatening conditions such as septicemia or sepsis. Biota Biosciences has not received any reports of adverse events related to this recall.

Severe adverse reactions in two patients to injections of another company's compounded curcumin emulsion product for injection were noted in 2017.

COVID-19 quackery summaries published. Products and services hyped for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 are discussed in:

Nobel laureates who promoted irrationality profiled. Psychology scholars have provided thumbnail sketches of Nobel laureates in the sciences who have promoted "assertions that are (a) highly implausible in light of scientific knowledge; (b) roundly rejected by essentially all scientific experts; and (c) based mostly or exclusively on anecdotal or uncorroborated evidence." [Basterfield C. and others. The Nobel disease: when intelligence fails to protect against irrationality. Skeptical Inquirer. 44(3):32-37, 2020] The laureates include:

These examples illustrate how brilliant people are not immune to irrational thinking and intellectual overreach. 

Psychology misinformation resource page recommended. The Association for Psychological Science has published a "Myths and Misinformation" resource page with links to consumer-friendly research summaries and lesson plans for instructors. Topics include counterarguments for debunking, flawed mythbusting, the myth of too much sugar causing hyperactivity, the myth of traumatic memories are often repressed and later recovered, and the myth that people with mental illness are more prone to violence.

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This page was posted on June 1, 2020.