Consumer Health Digest #20-27

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 12, 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.

Criminal charges against promoters of bleach as COVID-19 cure. Mark Grenon, 62, and his sons, Jonathan Grenon, 34, Jordan Grenon, 26, and Joseph Grenon, 32, who allegedly marketed "Miracle Mineral Solution" (MMS), a toxic bleach, as a cure for COVID-19, have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and criminal contempt. [Father and sons charged in Miami federal court with selling toxic bleach as fake "miracle" cure for covid-19 and violating court orders. US Attorney's Office Southern District of Florida news release. July 8, 2020] According to the criminal complaint affidavit, the Grenons allegedly:

The judge ordered that all websites selling MMS be immediately removed from the Internet and that all supplies involved in the product creation be confiscated and destroyed. Multiple agencies were called to the "church" location in Bradenton, Fla. in connection with search warrants and the federal order. Hazmat crews were reportedly called to assist with the warrants. [Federal agencies, hazmat crews respond to Florida church selling COVID-19 'miracle solution'. 23WIFR. July 8, 2020] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strongly urged consumers not to purchase or use MMS, explaining that drinking MMS is the same as drinking bleach and can cause dangerous side effects, including severe vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening low blood pressure. The FDA has received reports of people requiring hospitalizations, developing life-threatening conditions, and dying after drinking MMS.

Baseless COVID-19 and cancer claims for Thrive supplement barred. Under an administrative settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Marc Ching, the California-based marketer of a supplement called Thrive, which consists mainly of Vitamin C and herbal extracts, is barred from: (a) continuing to make baseless claims that Thrive can treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of COVID-19, and (b) making unsupported cancer treatment or prevention claims for products containing cannabidiol (CBD). In April, the FTC announced that Ching agreed to a preliminary federal court order that imposed similar terms. The order also requires Ching to send written notices to customers and retailers of Thrive, that: (a) clearly explain that it will not treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of COVID-19, (b) CBD-EX, CBD-RX, and CBD-Max will not treat cancer, and (c) informs customers and retailers of Ching's settlement with FTC. According to the FTC's federal district court complaint and administrative complaint seeking temporary relief, Ching:

Ching's administrative case is scheduled to begin on January 7, 2021. [FTC order stops the marketer of "Thrive" supplement from making baseless claims it can treat, prevent, or reduce the risks from COVID-19. FTC press release. July 10, 2020]

Rick Perry hawking unproven stem cell prevention of COVID-19. Former Texas governor and former Trump administration Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has been called out for plugging mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSC) from the Texas clinic firm Celltex for COVID-19 prevention on Fox News even though they are of unproven value. According to the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog: "Perry used to be on the company's board, received MSC injections from the firm, and his wife is still on the board." [Knoepfler P. Rick Perry plugs Celltex MSCs on Fox for COVID-19 prevention. The Niche. July 12, 2020]

Evidence for using bioidentical hormones found lacking. An ad hoc committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support the clinical utility of custom-compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (cBHT). Unlike the dozens of hormone therapy products that have been reviewed for safety and efficacy and are FDA-approved for treating symptoms resulting from natural, age-related hormone changes or other endocrine-based disorders, cBHT preparations are not required to be proven safe or effective before they are dispensed to patients. The NAS committee recommends: (a) restricting the use of cBHT preparations, (b) assessment of their difficulty to compound, and (c) additional education, oversight, and research. An estimated 26 to 33 million prescriptions for cBHT preparations cost upwards of $2 billion annually. [National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Highlights: The clinical utility of compounded bioidentical hormone therapy (cBHT): A review of safety, effectiveness, and use. The National Academies Press, July 1, 2020] The full text of the report is available online free-of-charge.

Fine proposed for robocaller Rising Eagle. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a $225 million fine against Rising Eagle, a Texas-based telemarketer that apparently made over 1 billion health insurance sales robocalls to American consumers including many on the Do Not Call registry. [FCC proposes record $225 million fine for 1 billion spoofed robocalls. FCC news release. June 9, 2020] 

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