Consumer Health Digest #20-35
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 6, 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.
Multilevel marketers of "supplements" tied to pandemic exposed. TruthInAdvertising.org has lambasted Arizona-based multilevel marketer Plexus Worldwide, LLC for selling a "Kids Essentials Combo" comprised of two "supplement" products, MegaKids Microbiome and XFactor Kids, that its distributors claim to help:
- boost childrens' immune systems
- possibly keep them virus free
- a host of health conditions that affect children including asthma, eczema, ADHD, GI issues
TruthInAdvertising.org found most of those health claims were made after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a June 5 warning letter to the company about its unsubstantiated coronavirus prevention or treatment claims for its products. It also found that the company has made claims for income-generating opportunities for distributors tied to the pandemic even though the Plexus 2018 income disclosure statement reveals that average annual earnings for distributors was little more than $300. That amount doesn't take into account fees and expenditures incurred by distributors. [Tina.org finds Plexus deceptively marketing supplements for kids. TruthInAdvertising.org, Aug 12, 2020]
In June, the FTC warned five other MLM companies about health and/or income claims related to COVID-19: Youngevity International, Inc. , Vivri USA, LLC , Melaleuca, Inc., Isagenix International LLC and The Juice Plus+ Company. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Plexus about its marketing of three unapproved drug products.
Upcoming consumer health webcasts announced. Free webcasts of interest include:
- Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and Medical Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute and Constant Health in Ottawa, Canada, will discuss questions about obesity raised during the pandemic as part of the McGill Office of Science and Society's COVID & More: Conversations with the McGill OSS series on September 10th at 9:00 AM ET.
- Dr Seema Yasmin, the director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative and author of Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall For Them, will discuss how a history of unethical medical experiments and mistakes, along with a host of celebrities spewing anti-science beliefs, has left many wary of science and scientists as part of the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER PRESENTS live online Zoom event series on September 10 at 7PM ET. Advanced registration is required.
- The theme of the 2020 Trottier Public Science Symposium will be "In Whom to We Trust?" The symposium will be livestreamed on two dates, October 19th and October 26th, both from noon to 2PM EST. The October 19th livestream will feature Britt Hermes ("Fake doctor. Real Harm. Confessions of a former naturopathic 'doctor'") and Brendan Nyhan, a professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College, speaking about "The Consumers of "Fake News": Why people read untrustworthy sources online." The October 27th livestream will feature author Anthony Warner speaking about "Ending Hunger - The Quest to Feed the World Without Destroying It" and science journalist Wendy Zuckerman speaking about "Science journalism during the Pandemic: How do you keep up with the facts and the fears."
COVID-19 quackery database established. In May, the Center for Inquiry started a "Dubious COVID-19 Treatments and Preventives" page that has been frequently updated and expanded to provide information to consumers about products and services that have been promoted with unsubstantiated COVID-19-related health claims. More than 20 categories of products and services are included on the page in expandable/collapsible sections. Links are provided in most sections about legal and regulatory actions in the United States against marketers during the pandemic. Almost all products and services discussed on the page have long been promoted with false or misleading claims for a wide range of health problems.
Herbal drugs used in China against COVID-19 panned. A scholar affiliated with the Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine of The Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine has warned about the lack of scientific evidence supporting three patent herbal drugs that are approved, widely used, and available without prescriptions in China to treat COVID-19 symptoms. The approvals were based on laboratory studies and anecdotal clinical data rather than high-quality, rigorously peer-reviewed clinical trials reported in internationally recognized journals. The drugs are Lianhuaqingwen capsules and Jinhuaqinggan granules for mild conditions, and Xuebijing (injectable) for severe conditions. [Yang Y. Use of herbal drugs to treat COVID-19 should be with caution. Lancet, May 15, 2020]
Humira manufacturer must change its marketing as part of settlement. California's Department of Insurance reached a $24 million settlement with pharmaceutical giant AbbVie that will require the company to change its marketing practices to patients and health care providers for its immunology drug Humira. California will receive $15 million of the $24 million settlement. A former AbbVie nurse who reported the company's allegedly fraudulent practices to the insurance regulator will get the remainder. The settlement, in which AbbVie denied any wrongdoing, resolves a lawsuit alleging that AbbVie:
- violated the Insurance Frauds Prevention Act by failing to disclose critical information to patients and health care providers
- employed registered nurses as ambassadors to talk with patients about Humira but did not disclose that they were employees of the Big Pharma company
- unlawfully provided valuable professional goods and services to doctors at no cost to induce them to prescribe Humira
Newer drugs compete in the marketplace with Humira for treating arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, plaque psoriasis, and ankylosing spondylitis. [Anderson C. Drugmaker AbbVie will pay $24 million to California, whistleblower to settle fraud lawsuit. Sacramento Bee, Aug 6, 2020]
This page was posted on September 6, 2020.