Consumer Health Digest #20-30
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 2, 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.
"America's Frontline Doctors" found to be on the COVID-19 fringe. Last week Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter quickly removed a 45-minute video that violated their standards by falsely claiming that business and school closings, social distancing, and masks were not needed because the drug hydroxychloroquine could both prevent and cure COVID-19. The claims were made by a group presented as "America's Frontline Doctors" at a July 27th event in front of the U.S. Capitol with a small audience that had been livestreamed by the far-right website, Breitbart News. The Tea Party Patriots, a right-wing nonprofit group, hosted and funded the event. Donald Trump Jr.'s Twitter account was temporarily suspended after he tweeted the video stating "This is a must watch!!! So different from the narrative everyone is running with." President Trump retweeted a clip of the video and later defended doing so, saying that one of the doctors, Stella Immanuel, was impressive and that he thought her voice was "important." [Zadrozny B. Collins B. Dark money and PAC's coordinated 'reopen' push are behind doctors' viral hydroxychloroquine video. NBC News, July 28, 2020] Dr. Immanuel, a pediatrician and religious minister, has a history of making bizarre medical claims. [Sommer. W. Trump's new favorite COVID doctor believes in alien DNA, demon sperm, and hydroxychloroquine. The Daily Beast, July 28, 2020] Investigators of the featured doctors found that "none of the most vocal members have practices that would place them on the actual front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some don't currently practice at all." [Basen R and others. No evidence that doctor group in viral video got near COVID 'front lines'. MedPage Today, July 29, 2020] Despite the quiet removal, the video had more than 20 million views.
Marketer of pricey COVID-19 treatments sued. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., of Porterville, California with deceptively advertising a $23,000 treatment plan as a scientifically proven way to treat COVID-19. [FTC sues California marketer of $23,000 COVID-19 "treatment" plan. FTC press release, July 31, 2020] The FTC's complaint alleged that Golden Sunrise:
- began marketing its Emergency D-Virus plan as a treatment for COVID-19 in March 2020
- falsely advertised on billboards, their websites, and on social media that the company's supplements—ImunStem, Aktiffvate, and AnterFeerons—were "uniquely qualified to treat and modify the course of the Coronavirus epidemic in CHINA and other countries," and that users could expect the "disappearance of viral symptoms within two to four days"
- continued to market the treatment plan after FTC sent Golden Sunrise a warning letter in April 2020
- falsely claimed their products and treatment plans have been reviewed and accepted by the FDA, and designated safe and effective
- promoted and sold a range of dietary supplements as treatments for cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other serious health problems
- offered some treatments that cost as much as $170,000 to $200,000
Bestselling nutrition books evaluated. A team of researchers has analyzed the top 100 bestselling nutrition-focused books during the period 2008 to 2015 based on Google Books summaries, online information about the authors, and text analysis of the seven of top ten books available in electronic form. They found:
- Eighty of the summaries mentioned weight loss or weight management.
- Of the summaries that specified a weight, the stated program lengths and numbers of pounds that could be lost varied greatly with medians of 21 days and 15.5 pounds.
- 31 of the summaries referred to claims that following the nutrition advice provided could cure or prevent diseases.
- Specific diseases claimed to be curable or preventable by following the nutrition advice included diabetes (in 15 book summaries), heart disease (in 12), cancer (11), dementia (8), arthritis (6), autoimmune disorders (5), Parkinson's disease (3), autism spectrum disorder (3), and depression (3). Following the nutrition advice provided was claimed in 13 book summaries to increase energy levels and in 7 to increase lifespan.
- The 100 summaries showed very little consistency in terms of what were the key components of a beneficial diet.
- Of the 83 unique authors, 33.7% had a medical degree and 6.0% had a Ph.D degree, while about half of the authors had no graduate degree.
The paper includes a sample list taken from the summaries of 16 nutritional claims that the researchers consider disputable and/or unsubstantiated. [Marton RM. and others. Science, advocacy, and quackery in nutritional books: an analysis of conflicting advice and purported claims of nutritional best-sellers. Palgrave Communications 6:43, 2020] The researchers wrote:
In all, our assessment of the summaries of best-selling books on nutrition shows that they may provide information or misinformation about very important matters and they are a heterogeneous mix. We cannot exclude that some of them may be providing sound or even excellent advice, but it is likely that many, probably the large majority, contain substantial misinformation and claims that have no scientific foundation.
Sellers of hangover remedies warned. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it has issued warning letters to seven companies for illegally selling unapproved products labeled as dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent hangovers, in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The warning letters were issued to: Double Wood LLC; Ebnsol Inc.; Vita Heaven LLC (doing business as Hangover Heaven); Happy Hour Vitamins; LES Labs; Mind, Body & Coal LLC; and Purple Biosciences LLC. [FDA warns companies illegally selling hangover remedies. FDA news release, July 29, 2020]
Payments available for people prescribed Suboxone film. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that:
- it reached settlements totaling $60 million with the companies responsible for Suboxone®, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction
- these companies violated antitrust laws by preventing patients from choosing lower-priced generic versions
- if you were prescribed Suboxone film in the United States between March 1, 2013 and February 28, 2019, you can apply for a payment by the deadline of December 1, 2020 using the online claim form
This page was posted on June 21, 2020.