Consumer Health Digest #20-38

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 27, 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.


"Brain boosting" supplements found to be adulterated. Researchers who tested ten products marketed online for cognitive enhancement found that all contained significant doses of unapproved drugs, some of which were listed on their label and others were not. Eight were claimed to enhance mental function, one product was marketed to "outlast, endure, overcome," and one was described as "workout explosives." [Cohen P. and others. Five unapproved drugs found in cognitive enhancement supplements. Neurology Clinical Practice, Sept 23, 2020] The researchers concluded:

Use of these cognitive enhancement supplements poses potentially serious health risks given the unpredictable dosing and lack of clinician supervision. The risks of using specific products is not known, although these drugs have been associated with adverse effects including increased and decreased blood pressure, insomnia, agitation, dependence, sedation, hospitalization and intubation.


Belief in COVID-19 misinformation found to be widespread. A survey conducted last month of 21,196 individuals across all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia has found that between 7% and 22% of respondents indicated that they believed each of 11 false claims that have circulated online since the beginning of the pandemic. The use of mobile instant messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger were associated with greater belief in misinformation. Respondents who indicated that they received news about the pandemic over the previous 24 hours from local television news, news websites, apps, and community newspapers had the lowest levels of misperceptions. Belief in each of three false claims involving COVID-19 conspiracies was associated with lower likelihood of intention to seek a COVID-19 vaccine. Belief in each of eight of the 11 false claims was found to be associated with lower likelihood to report following mask wearing guidelines "very closely." [Baum MA. and others. The state of the nation: a 50-state COVID-19 survey report #14: misinformation and vaccine acceptance. The COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public's Policy Preferences Across States, Sept 23, 2020]


Science and health authorities attack pandemic misinformation. Recent statements objecting to the spread of COVID-19-related misinformation, disinformation, and/or politically motivated disregard for evidence have come from:


"Health freedom" group blasted for opposing public health protections. Attorney Jann Bellamy has lambasted an organization called the National Health Freedom Action (NHFA) for:

Bellamy concluded:

One would like to think that a law undermining public health during a pandemic has little chance of passing, but the facts suggest otherwise. First, there is the anti-mitigation, anti-science, pro-quackery "leadership" coming from the top echelons of our government. Second, a "right to refuse" law, similar but weaker in its terms, already passed in Minnesota. Third, as mentioned, NHFA has been successful in passing laws giving quacks carte blanche to prey on consumers by eliminating state oversight. Fourth, state legislatures have shown themselves more than willing to throw obstacles in the way of public health measures like vaccination. Finally, state legislatures have also proven themselves incapable of understanding science many times, having passed numerous laws licensing quackery. In other words, don't count them out. [Bellamy J. "Health Freedom" group promotes legislation negating masks, other public health measures. Science-Based Medicine, Sept 24, 2020]


Lawsuit against top Herbalife distributors can proceed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that Patricia Rodgers, her husband Jeff Rodgers, and fellow plaintiffs can proceed with a federal lawsuit that is seeking class-action status against 44 top-level Herbalife distributors. The Court's ruling overturned lower court rulings that Herbalife could compel arbitration. [Alpert B. Herbalife faces a fresh legal hurdle. Barron's, Sept 25, 2020] The Appeals Court order summarized Rodgers' situation this way:

Patricia Rodgers filled out the paperwork to become an Herbalife member in June 2010. Some six months later, she claims, she traveled over a hundred miles to Orlando, Florida, to attend her first large Herbalife recruiting event, the "January Spectacular." According to Patricia, the keynote speaker at this event was a highly successful distributor who told the attendees that if they simply put in enough time, money, and effort, then they, too, could achieve life-changing financial success. . . . Over the next four years, Patricia and Jeff purportedly attended over fifty Circle of Success events, in which they were continuously assured by Herbalife's top distributors that success was just around the corner. Patricia and Jeff claim that, in their efforts to achieve their dreams, they moved from Miami to Jacksonville, cashed out a retirement account and a settlement annuity, sold jewelry, and borrowed money from family members. All told, Patricia and Jeff allege that they spent over $100,000 on Herbalife, including $20,000 on Circle of Success events.

Herbalife International, founded in 1980, markets dietary supplements, herbs, weight-management products, and personal care products. MLM Watch has considerable information about the company.


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This page was posted on September 28, 2020.