Consumer Health Digest #20-24
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 16, 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.
Survey explores risks of unproven stem cell procedures. A total of 204 academic neurologists across the United States responded to a 24-question survey about their experiences with patients who had obtained or inquired about unproven stem cell treatments. [Julian K and others. Complications from "stem cell tourism" in neurology. Annals of Neurology, published online ahead of print July 7, 2020] Key findings included:
- 89% said that they had been approached by patients or caregivers about stem cell treatments; about half of the patients had incurable conditions.
- 65% had at least one patient who received a "therapy" using stem cells.
- 31% had had discussions with more than 15 patients.
- Most discussions concerned unproven treatments rather than FDA-approved clinical trials.
- 28% stated that they were only somewhat prepared, and 8% said that they were not at all prepared to counsel patients with questions about stem cell therapie .
- 25% reported having patients experience complications related to stem cell procedures.
- Several neurologists said that they had patients who did not experience complications but spent large amounts of money (as much as $50,000) without seeing benefit.
The authors called for evidence-based education both to neurologists and their patients, creation of a national registry to document the cases of neurological complications of "stem cell tourism," and increased professional regulation.
Genesis II operators arrested and ordered to stop selling MMS. Colombian officials say they have arrested Mark Grenon and his son Joseph Grenon who are wanted in the United States on charges they illegally sold chloride dioxide-releasing "Miracle Mineral Solution" (MMS) as a miracle cure for COVID-19 and other diseases under the guise of Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The Colombian prosecutor's office said the Grenons were shipping their products from the beach town of Santa Marta to clients in the United States, Colombia, and Africa. [Associated Press. Floridians who promoted bleach cocktail as a COVID-19 cure arrested in Colombia. CBC, Aug 13, 2020] In July, Mark and his sons Jonathan, Jordan, and Joseph, all of Brandenton, Florida, were 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. U.S. Attorney's Office, news release, July 8, 2020] Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court in Florida entered permanent injunctions that prohibit the Grenons and their "church" from selling or distributing unapproved or misbranded products such as Mineral Miracle Solution (MMS). [Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: Daily Roundup. FDA news release, Aug 11, 2020] The perpetrators' main websites now state: "Due to US Dept. of Justice permanent injunction against the Genesis II Church, this site is closed. —Bishop Mark S. Grenon."
"Immune Shot" promoter charged with selling misbranded COVID-19 drug. Matthew Ryncarz, and his company, Fusion Health and Vitality, LLC d/b/a/ Pharm Origins have been charged with violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by selling a misbranded drug called "Immune Shot" that they falsely claimed would lower the risk of contracting COVID-19. [Georgia man and his company charged with selling misbranded drug advertised to treat COVID-19. US Attorney's Office Southern District of Georgia news release, Aug 10, 2020] The charging document (criminal information) alleged:
- Ryncarz and his company created a website and began selling "Immune Shot" for $19 a bottle.
- The website represented that "YOU will learn in JUST MINUTES … how to LOWER your risk of COVID-19 by nearly 50%."
- The marketing targeted individuals ages 50 and older with heavy-handed sales pitches, such as (a) "The NEXT FIVE MINUTES could save your life," (b) "We are offering you the exclusive price of only $19 per bottle because we know that Immune Shot could be the most important formula in the WORLD right now due to the new pandemic," (c) "Immune Shot is Not a Luxury, It is a Necessity Right Now," (d) "Point Blank, if YOU Leave, YOU are at Risk," and (e) "Is Your Life Worth $19? Seriously, Is It?"
Common "esoteric medicine" fallacies discussed. A new commentary provides an illuminating discussion of common fallacies used to undermine critical thinking to promote the use of quack methods. [Ernst E. Fallacies of esoteric medicine. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift 132:224–227, 2020] The fallacies are:
- Appeals to popularity and authority
- Post-hoc fallacy
- Even if it is just a placebo, it helps patients
- Appeal to tradition
- The methods are ethical
- The methods cannot be scientifically tested
- The methods are natural and hence harmless
NewsGuard expands efforts to fight misinformation. NewsGuard is mounting a multi-pronged attack on misinformation spread through online news outlets. Its Internet Trust Tool provides detailed ratings by journalists of more than 4,500 news websites that account for 95% of online engagement with news. Ratings are based on five credibility criteria and four transparency criteria. NewsGuard's Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center currently lists 302 websites that provide false coronavirus information. NewsGuard has also teamed up with a WHO-backed group of advertising companies and launched an integration with Peer39 to provide a simple way for advertisers to avoid placing ads on COVID-19 misinformation sites while continuing to support credible sources of information. Free two-week memberships are currently available to try out NewsGuard's Internet Trust Tool. A small monthly charge thereafter enables continued use of the tool and also supports the organization's campaigns against misinformation.
This page was posted on August 16, 2020.