Consumer Health Digest #20-25
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 28, 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.
Chiropractor tailoring practice-building pitch to pandemic. In its fifth report about the promotion of dubious neuropathy treatments by chiropractor Philip Straw, the NBC4 I-Team (Los Angeles) spotlighted a Web page that Straw and his business partner Vivienne Reign use to recruit chiropractors to sign up for the "5-DAY NEUROPATHY CASH MACHINE MASTER CLASS." [Johnson C. Dreschler P. Chiropractic company accused of swindling thousands out of customers uses pandemic as selling point. NBC4 Los Angeles. June 25, 2020] The banner for the page reads: "Take The 5 Day Quarantine Cash Machine Challenge Starting May 18th." By taking the challenge, chiropractors can supposedly: "In 5 Short Days Learn How This One Simple Device and In-Home Treatment Plan Can Add an Additional $25,000+ Per Month in Revenue to Your Chiropractic Practice Even During Quarantine." The I-Team announced that it has received more than 50 complaints from consumers who paid thousands of dollars for neuropathy services not covered by insurance but provided by Straw's Southern California business Superior Health Centers and former business Optimal Health Straw Chiropractic. The services include "lightsource lights" that consumers say don't work and an electrical device that is alleged in a lawsuit to have burned a patient's leg. A profile of Reign says that she has led a group called We Have Rights that has organized large back-to-work protests calling on California and local leaders to end social-distancing orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The profile also notes that Reign and her husband live in a $3 million home in Newport Beach and are facing several lawsuits related to the neuropathy clinics [Smith JE. Meet the woman who spearheaded California's recent back-to-work protests. San Diego Union-Tribune. May 10, 2020]
Deceptive advertising of light therapy device halted. Michigan-based Physicians Technology LLC, Willow Labs LLC, and company owners Dr. Ronald Shapiro and David Sutton have agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint which alleged that they:
- promoted the device nationwide since 2014, touting it as a "smart" device that is "clinically proven," even though they lack scientific evidence to support these claims
- falsely claimed that Willow Curve was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to diagnose and treat chronic, severe pain and reduce inflammation
- included in their marketing campaign deceptive "native" ads, which were commercial content disguised as independent journalistic content
- deceptively claimed Willow Curve comes with a "risk free money back" guarantee when consumers who returned the device had to pay shipping and handling costs and often did not receive a refund at all or had to wait more than a year for it
The proposed settlement order prohibits the challenged conduct and imposes a $22 million judgment, which will be partially suspended after Shapiro and Sutton each pay $200,000, based on their ability to pay. [FTC puts an end to deceptive advertising of light therapy device. FTC press release. June 25, 2020]
Manufacturers of unapproved injectable "homeopathic" drugs warned. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to four companies for selling unapproved injectable drug products labeled as homeopathic that can pose serious risks to patient health and violate federal law: Hevert Pharmaceuticals, LLC; MediNatura, Inc.; 8046255 Canada, Inc., doing business as Viatrexx; and World Health Advanced Technologies, Ltd. Many of the drugs were labeled to contain potentially toxic ingredients such as nux vomica (which contains strychnine), belladonna (deadly nightshade), mercurius solubilis (mercury), and plumbum aceticum (lead) that present additional risks of serious harm when delivered directly into the bloodstream. Drugs labeled as homeopathic may also cause significant and even irreparable harm if they are poorly manufactured. Viatrexx was also cited for substandard manufacturing practices for sterile drugs. The foreign manufacturers of the injectable drugs sold by Hervert Pharmaceuticals, LLC; MediNatura New Mexico, Inc.; and Viatrexx were also placed on import alert 66-41 to stop these drugs from entering the U.S. [FDA warns four manufacturers of unapproved injectable drugs labeled as homeopathic. FDA news release. June 18, 2020]
Banker methods of natural vision improvement scrutinized. The offbeat methods for vision improvement espoused by Deborah Ellen Banker, M.D. (1952-2007) continue to be promoted at the DrBanker.com Web site by John Monroe, of Boulder, Colorado, who describes himself as a "Natural Vision Educator." [Barrett S. A skeptical look at Deborah E. Banker, M.D. Quackwatch. June 26, 2020] An investigation of Dr. Banker's background and current promotional claims at DrBanker.com has revealed:
- Banker completed a residency program in ophthalmology but was never board certified.
- Banker promoted a wide variety of implausible, unsubstantiated methods in her non-invasive approach to vision improvement.
- Banker is said to have invented a microcurrent stimulating device called SEEDS (subtle electromagnetic energy device system) to supposedly stimulate energy and life force into damaged or traumatized nerve cells and tissue, but no details or research reports on the device appear to be available.
- Banker's 1994 book Self-Help Vision Care included faulty dietary suggestions and recommended vitamin A supplementation at doses high enough to cause liver toxicity.
- The Medical Board of California ordered her to undergo a fitness-to-practice evaluation that would have led to revocation of her license, but she appears to have died before it was completed.
- DrBanker.com still markets Banker's book, herbal products, supplements, and "Natural Vision Improvement Workshops."
- Following Dr. Banker's advice could delay necessary early intervention to save the vision of patients with the most serious form of age-related macular degeneration.
This page was posted on June 29, 2020.