Consumer Health Digest #20-28
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 19, 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.
Mask-exemption fakery exposed. Mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic is an essential public health measure for reducing airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, but far too many people are discouraging it. "Mask exemption" cards are circulating online and on social media that say the holder has a disability that prevents wearing a mask and that it is illegal for any business to ask them to disclose their condition. Variations of the card include the seal of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), one of the federal agencies responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Such cards are neither issued nor endorsed by DOJ or any other U.S. government agency. The most widely offered cards have been offered by the "Freedom to Breathe Agency," whose Web site also provides misinformation about masks. [Barrett S. Mask exemption cards are not government supported. Quackwatch, July 18, 2020]
Promoter of herbal treatment for COVID-19 indicted. Huu Tieu, 58, the president and chief executive officer of Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical Inc. and Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical Inc., both headquartered in Porterville, California, was arrested after a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging him with mail fraud and marketing a misbranded drug with intent to defraud. [Tulare County man indicted for falsely marketing herbal mixtures as FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19. U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of California news release, July 14, 2020] The indictment charged that Tieu:
- marketed and sold a package of herbal mixtures dubbed the "Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care" for which he made a series of false statements in emails to the media and on his companies' Web sites and Facebook pages
- falsely advertised that one of the mixtures in the product, called "ImunStem," was the first dietary supplement in the United States to be FDA approved as a prescription medicine to treat serious or life-threatening conditions and had specifically been approved to treat COVID‑19
- falsely advertised that ImunStem was designated as a Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) under the 21st Century Cures Act
- made these misrepresentations for the purpose of soliciting customers, both patients and health care professionals, to acquire Golden Sunrise products so that he could submit reimbursement claims to the patients' insurers, including Medicare and Medi-Cal
- dispensed his products to customers in the Porterville area and also shipped the products to other parts of California and the United States
In reality, the Food and Drug Administration: (a) has never approved any Golden Sunrise product for any intended use, (b) on at least two occasions, has told Tieu in writing that ImunStem is not FDA-approved, (c) never granted an RMAT designation to a Golden Sunrise product, (d) denied Tieu's request for an RMAT designation for ImunStem in 2017, and (e) repeated that denial to Tieu in writing in 2019. If convicted, Tieu faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the mail fraud counts and three years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the misbranding counts.
Web sites hawking COVID-19 vaccine preorders shut down. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky has obtained a court order to shut down a Web page, six related Web addresses, and a related Facebook page that invited consumers to "pre-register" for a non-existent COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for $100 worth of Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency. The operator, Luke John Flint, of Louisville, Kentucky, was doing business through "coronavaccine.center,'" "coronavaccine.today," "coronatesting.site," "coronatesting.center," "coronavaccine.shop," "coronavaccine.club," and "covid19vaccine.center." The motion to enter an agreed preliminary injunction contains a declaration by the undercover agent who investigated Flint's activities and persuaded him to agree that the United States could establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Flint was about to violate or had violated the federal wire-fraud statute. The judge's order prohibits Flint and associates from committing wire fraud, maintaining and doing business through the sites and social media, and destroying business records. [U.S. Attorney's Office shuts down multiple websites claiming to offer preorders for COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of Kentucky news release, July 13, 2020]
"Brain balancing" chiropractor reprimanded and fined. The College of Chiropractors of British Columbia has reprimanded North Vancouver chiropractor Dan Sullins who offered unproven and unapproved "brain balancing" treatments and treated patients while his license was suspended. Sullins agreed to pay a $200 fine and pay the college $4,000 in costs after signing a consent agreement acknowledging numerous problems with his practice, according to a public notice. Sullins has advertised: (a) his "board certified functional neurology" credential, which is not recognized in British Columbia and (b) patient testimonials that suggest he has helped with some conditions that chiropractors in B.C. are specifically banned from claiming to treat, including ADHD and childhood speech disorders. [Barrett S. "Functional neurologist" reprimanded for unprofessional conduct. Chirobase, July 17, 2020]
Cautionary tale about "alternative" cancer treatment. In an article and five-minute video, the BBC has told the sad story of singer/guitarist Sean Walsh, who: (a) developed Hodgkin's lymphoma as a teenager, (b) had six months of chemotherapy, (c) had a recurrence of his cancer after two years, (d) was advised that additional standard treatment would give him a 50% chance of long-term survival, (e) pursued unproven "alternative" treatments instead, and (f) was misled by thermography promoters into believing that his cancer was gone. Walsh's unproven approach included vitamin supplements, hyperbaric oxygen, intravenous vitamin C, and a stay at the Northern Baja Gerson Centre in Mexico. [Whitehouse H. Man with cancer beats 8 month prognosis - despite shunning hospital teatment. ECHO, Jan 21, 2017] He died at age 23. [Hughes D, Wright L. 'Thermographic scans gave my son false hope', BBC News. July 15, 2020] Walsh's story is also told in a 30-minute video available on YouTube. [Wright L. False hope? Alternative cancer cures. BBC3, July 15, 2020]
This page was posted on July 20, 2020.