Consumer Health Digest #20-37
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 20, 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.
Recommendations issued to thwart COVID-19 misinformation. The Global Health Security Network (GHSN) Limited has examined some of the challenges and implications of COVID-19 misinformation. [Hunt J. The COVID-19 pandemic vs Post-Truth. Global Health Security Network, August 2020] Its report focuses on conspiracy theories that: (a) undermine mitigation efforts such as facemasks and lockdowns, (b) encourage lower vaccination rates (if or when a vaccine becomes available), (c) politicize scientific institutions, practitioners, and researchers, and (d) launch political campaigns of conspiracy theorists. The report recommends:
- Government, in concert with researchers, should work with technology companies and social media platforms to establish programs that actively monitor, target, and take down conspiracy theories and associated user accounts for repeat offenders.
- Governments should adapt law-enforcement mechanisms used to fight child pornography and domestic extremism, and should pass laws to combat conspiracy groups that disseminate extremist content.
- Professional associations should update their codes of conduct to include formal review and disciplinary processes for individuals in positions of public trust (e.g. licensed physicians) who endanger public health by promoting conspiracy theories.
- Political parties could include in their election and policy platforms a commitment to professional a code of conduct, with sanctions and removal of campaign support for candidates who fail to adhere to minimum standards around the dissemination of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
- Civil society organizations and professional associations should mobilize their membership networks to target corporate advertising in outlets that promote or facilitate the dissemination of conspiracy theories.
GHSN is a new multidisciplinary professional association dedicated to facilitating evidence-informed policy for the detection, prevention, and control of infectious disease threats, irrespective of origin or source.
Television commercial for ZShield face shields criticized. ZShield is a line of "NEW Ultra-Lightweight PPE" manufactured by ZVerse and advertised as made-in-America, clear, reusable, and washable face shield with an innovative neck mount design "so you can wear it comfortably all day" and which "tilts down whenever you like." The line includes shields for both children and adults. Its commercial states: "Not everyone can wear a mask all day" and claims that ZShield "wraps your face providing a barrier to respiratory droplets." A disclaimer appears in small print near the bottom of the screen for about 7 seconds: "The ZVerse Face Shield is not intended or approved as a replacement for other PPE, including but not limited to masks." The 350-word disclaimer in the product's website includes these words:
ZVerse makes no warranty that the products will: (a) meet a buyer's requirements or intended purposes or uses; (b) prevent the spread or incurrence of any illness, virus, or bacteria; . . . (d) be fit for the purpose(s) and indications described in the applicable product labeling, packaging, advertising, or marketing; (e) perform in accordance with ZVerse's published specifications. . . . A buyer accepts that the products are a physical barrier only and do not provide protection against any airborne illnesses, viruses, or bacteria.
ZShields shields are plastic barriers that can intercept droplets aimed directly at them, but they are open at the sides and don't protect others from airborne viral transmission as masks do. In some settimgs, they may be advantageous to wear in addition to a mask. But Clay Jones, M.D. who looked at the information provided on their website has concluded:
If a person is wearing a face shield that is open at the top, as all ZShield products except for the one marketed to healthcare professionals are, they are within roughly 3 feet of the source, and their head is situated below said source, their face shield will inconveniently collect falling infected respiratory droplets and direct them towards the eyes, mouth, and nose. . . .
The manufacturers of ZShield appear to be choosing comfort and ease of use/customer preference over effectiveness in the design of products that they are selling to the general public. It's dangerous to promote what is essentially an untested medical device with such low likelihood of preventing the spread of COVID-19. And the degree to which they've contorted the available scientific studies and expert recommendations to give the appearance of legitimate protection is wrong. [Jones C. ZShield: unproven protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection, especially for kids. Science-Based Medicine, Sept 18, 2020]
Georgia "regenerative medicine" business sued. Georgia's attorney general has charged that Elite Integrated Medical, LLC of Woodstock (d/b/a Superior Healthcare Group, Superior Healthcare Sandy Springs, and Superior Healthcare Morrow) and its owner, Justin Paulk, violated the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (FBPA) by making false and misleading claims about its regenerative medicine products, which are said to be derived from placental tissue, umbilical cord blood, and Wharton's jelly. [Carr sues Elite Integrated Medical for deceptive claims made to elderly and disabled consumers regarding stem cell therapy. Office of the Attorney General of Georgia press release, Sept 14, 2020] According to the complaint:
- The regenrative products lack FDA approval. The FDA has warned one of the suppliers that its products could not be legally marketed.
- The products grossed over $6.4 million by using aggressive marketing techniques and high-pressure sales tactics to convince at least 842 consumers, most of whom were elderly and/or disabled, to purchase expensive, unproven medical treatments that are not covered by Medicare or health insurance
- The company represented that it has a staff of medical doctors who provide its products to patients, when in fact, medical doctors administer a very limited number of product injections, most injections are administered by nurse practitioners, and the vast majority of patients interact only with chiropractors and nurse practitioners
- The company acted deceptively by featuring on its website a testimonial from a purported customer who owns Elite's advertising agency, without disclosing the material connections between itself and this person or the fact that this "customer" received his treatments for free
The complaint, which includes copies of the ads and reviews the legal status of stem cell therapy, seeks injunctive relief, consumer restitution, and civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation of the FBPA and up to $10,000 per FBPA violation committed against elderly and/or disabled consumers.
In a parallel case, Georgia's attorney general has reached a settlement with Grow Smart Marketing, LLC and its two owners, who were responsible for writing content for Elite Integrated Medical's website, social media ads, and emails about upcoming seminars. The settlement (a) bars the company from making unsubstantiated claims on behalf of clients who market stem cell therapy products to Georgia consumers and (b) to pay restitution to the state. The Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog has additional information about Elite's marketing and the impact of similar clinics offering "injections that have no likelihood of benefit and have definite risk." [Georgia AG sues clinics & owner Justin Paulk. The Niche, Sept 15, 2020]
More evidence links vaccine refusal to measles outbreaks. A recent review has found that in measles outbreaks during the past five years, at least 70% of the infected individuals had not been vaccinated. Seven articles published from November 30, 2015, through June 1, 2020, covered 8 measles outbreaks that included 1,176 individuals with measles, of whom 125 (10.6%) had received measles-containing vaccine, 888 (75.5%) had no history of vaccination, and 163 (13.9%) had unknown vaccination status.[Phadke VK and others. Vaccine refusal and measles outbreaks in the US. JAMA, Aug 14, 2020] State and national measles surveillance data from 2016 to June 2020 indicates that of 1392 measles cases, 152 (10.9%) had received measles-containing vaccine, 989 (71.0%) had no history of measles vaccination, and 251 (18.0%) had unknown vaccination status.
Deafness quackery archived. The University of Chicago Press has published Hearing Happiness: Deaf Cures in History, a history of the colorful ways that charlatans (and sometimes physicians) have offered false hope to people who felt desperate about hearing problems. It also expresses how the book's author feels about public attitudes toward deafness—ideas that those who work with hearing-impaired children should consider.
This page was posted on September 20, 2020.