The Journal of Longevity: Medical Research Reviews in Preventive Medicine Fields looks like a magazine. But it is published by Health Quest Publications, which, like Gero Vita International, is one of the companies of nostrum promoter A. Glenn Braswell. Senator John Breaux (D-Louisiana) stated at the investigative hearing he chaired on September 10th that the Journal of Longevity "is simply an elaborate, somewhat misleading advertising tool that markets several of Gero Vita International's products." Other companies use similar advertising tools to get consumers' attention and convince them to order dietary supplement products.
The 24-page, Spring/Summer 2001 "Special Edition" of the tabloid-style M.D.'s Nutritional Bulletin has a price of $5.95 indicated on its front page. The same price appears on the front page of the 24-page Fall 2001 "Special Edition" of the tabloid-style Doctor's Nutritional Journal. Nevertheless, consumers who did not order these tabloids received them in the mail without charge. This does not mean they received gift subscriptions. These printed materials are designed to look like newsletters. They contain what look like articles. But all of the "articles" function as advertising copy to sensationalize supposed health benefits of consuming chlorella, a type of green alga.
The return address on each tabloid is that of Sun Chlorella USA of Torrance, California. Each tabloid concludes with an order form for "Sun Chlorella Starter Packs" featuring Sun Chlorella tablets along with promotional videos and literature by Sun Chlorella pitchman Michael E. Rosenbaum, MD. At http://www.michaelrosenbaummd.com, Dr. Rosenbaum is described as "a [p]ioneer in nutritional medicine" and "[a]lternative health practitioner specializing in: [d]ifficult to diagnose diseases and conditions]. The pitchman in Doctor's Nutritional Journal is Dr. David Nelson of the Center for Advanced Medicine in Encinitas, California and co-host of the radio show "Health Talk: A Second Opinion." According to the Center's Web site at http://www.ctradmed.com, Nelson has a PhD and ND. It does not say what institutions granted these degrees.
Popular Health has a cover design similar to those of newsstand health magazines. The price indicated on the cover is $2.95 for the Summer 2001 "issue" and $6.50 for the Summer/Fall 2001 "issue." Consumers received these printed materials in the mail without charge, but again, this does not mean they received gift subscriptions. The Summer 2001 "magazine" promotes a product called Achieve ES-said to be composed of precursors of testosterone-to enhance male sexual performance. The Summer/Fall 2001 "magazine" promotes PRIMOSTAT, a human growth hormone product, to "STOP-EVEN REVERSE AGING!" Each Popular Health contains a form to order its featured product from Bentley-Myers International of Vancouver, BC. (The phony magazines were mailed to consumers from Wisconsin.)
The only topic of the 4-page Spring 2001 Health Newsletter of Dr. Knoll Products, Inc. is Strauss Heart Drops. The product is described on the front page as a treatment to "cure heart disease" and "a safe sure way to unclog your arteries!" The remaining three pages consist of testimonials. At the bottom of each page in tiny print is a disclaimer:
"These testimonials do not imply that similar results will happen with your use of our products. These testimonials are not intended to recommend any supplement as a drug, as a diagnosis for specific illness or conditions, nor as a product to eliminate diseases or other medical conditions or complications. We make no medical claims to the benefits of any of our products to improve the medical condition of individuals."
The disclaimer does not appear on an inserted page, which consists of a letter hyping Strauss Heart Drops followed by a form for ordering the product.
A. Glenn Braswell the nostrum mogul who received one of the controversial pardons granted by President Clinton, exercised his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions that might be self-incriminating at a U.S. Senate Special Aging Committee hearing on September 10th. The hearing focused on "Swindlers, Hucksters, and Snake Oil Salesmen: The Hype and Hope of Marketing Anti-Aging Products to Seniors."
Braswell is the president of several companies. One of his companies sends consumers advertising mailers, such as the so-called Journal of Longevity, which deceptively promote products sold by Braswell's Gero Vita International with claims of anti-aging, aphrodisiac, and other types of health-enhancement. The editor of the "Journal," Ron Tepper, also took the Fifth.
NCAHF Board members Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS and Timothy N. Gorski, MD testified at the hearing and observed Braswell's appearance.
"His face was shrunken," said Dr. Baratz of Braswell. "He has the brown-tan, leathery skin similar to someone with renal failure. He appears to be skin and bones. His hair was missing large patches, and was very fine textured. These are clinical signs of malnutrition. He could barely get out his words."
In February The New York Times reported that Braswell was 57.
Dr. Baratz testified that the "health freedom" movement is a major danger; he called it "health tyranny." Its "promoters and profiteers have put up this 'smoke screen' to obscure their real agenda, which is to escape the reins of evidence and regulations so that they can enrich themselves." Dr. Baratz warned the Committee about "Redefinitions of the New Age" such as "alternative medicine." He pointed out that "[t]he 'alternative' to scientific, evidence-based medical practices is non-evidence based, non-scientific nonsense." He provided several examples of pseudoscientific experimentation disguised as patient care such as the dental amalgam removal scam and inappropriate uses of chelation therapy. He called for a serious reappraisal of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Amendment of 1994 (DSHEA) and offered suggestions for Congressional action such as the development of legislation "to allow states' attorneys general to get nationwide injunctions against sales and distribution of illegitimate and falsely advertised products."
Dr. Gorski testified that in 1984 Congressman Claude Pepper's Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care of the Select Committee on Aging recognized quackery as a scandal. He noted that today quackery thrives, disguised as "alternative" medicine, which he called "a huge business that is at once a media darling, a feeder at the public trough, and a threat to the public health." A deceptive 1993 survey of Americans received widespread, uncritical acceptance as evidence that a huge proportion of Americans regularly use methods marketed as "alternative." This mistaken belief was used to support misguided policies. Congress established the Office of Alternative Medicine and then the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. These organizations were staffed and controlled by advocates. The White House Commission for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy was formed with advocates as its appointees. DSHEA became law and opened the floodgates for marketing of products that had been condemned by the Pepper Subcommittee.
Dr. Gorski concluded: "There cannot be two kinds of drugs: those with a known composition, quality, potency, effects, hazards, interactions, and so on, and those about which all these things are little more than a guess. Neither can there be two standards of advertising for such products: one that requires a competent scientific basis before it is disseminated and one in which, for all practical purposes, anything goes. To have it otherwise, ultimately, is to have two kinds of law: one ruled by facts and reason, and one that is not subject to such "traditional," "orthodox," and "conventional" considerations.
Testimony by Mike O'Neil, the former chief financial officer of Braswell's companies, provided an insider's view of Braswell's business dealings. He said that the articles in the Journal of Longevity routinely contained false statements and "every word is designed to do one thingsell Braswell product."
"The products sold by the Braswell companies are rotated through the Journal with new product names and articles concocted as necessary," stated O'Neil. "That is, if a product does not do well, it is renamed and given life in treating some other malady."
O'Neil detailed Braswell's elaborate and effective strategy hindering regulatory agencies from having an impact on his businesses. O'Neil mentioned that he is part of on an ongoing IRS investigation of Braswell's role in a "massive off shore tax evasion scheme."
The published testimony by Jane Heinrich, U.S. General Accounting Office director of health care and public health issues is entitled Health Products for Seniors: Potential Harm from "Anti-Aging" Products. It includes a table listing the 16 most frequently used herbal and specialty supplements (according to a Prevention magazine survey) the principal claims, principal known adverse effects, principal contraindications, and principal known interactions with medications. It states that "evidence demonstrates that many senior citizens use anti-aging products and that consumers who suffer from aging-related health conditions may be at risk of physical and economic harm from some anti-aging and alternative health products, including dietary supplements that make misleading advertising and labeling claims."
Joyce C. Lashof, MD, representing the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, provided testimony about how the dietary supplement marketplace since the passage of the ill-conceived DSHEA misleads consumers into wasting their money on unnecessary or dangerous products. She stated that the Wellness Letter published a review of 70 dietary supplements at its Web site (www.wellnessletter.com).
Also testifying at the hearing were E. Vernon F. Glenn, Esq. (who represents sports celebrities who have accused Braswell of defaming them through unauthorized use of their likenesses in direct mail advertising), Maryland attorney general Joseph Curran, and officials from the FDA, FTC, and FBI.
The complete written statements from witnesses can be read on Quackwatch.
On October 20th notorious medical impostor and phony immunotherapy investment scammer Gregory Caplinger received a 14-year prison sentence from U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman for wire fraud and money laundering charges. Caplinger swindled nearly $2 million dollars from investors in ImmuStim, a concoction he misrepresented as effective in treating AIDS and other diseases. Judge Wiseman ordered Caplinger to pay his victims about $1 million restitution.
Caplinger had been convicted by a federal jury in North Carolina on July 20, 2000, but he failed to show up to hear the verdict and became a fugitive wanted by the FBI. In June Dominican Republic authorities arrested Caplinger and later turned him over to the FBI.
While attending his sentencing hearing, Caplinger's Dominican fiancé and alleged accountant, Flavia Berroa was arrested. She was charged with harboring a fugitive.
[Frazier E. Medical swindle draws 14 years. The Charlotte Observer, October 31, 2001.]
The following e-mail messages were received by NCAHF in September. They are reprinted with the sender's permission, but edited for space and clarity. The real names of family members are changed to maintain the anonymity of the family.
Finding your Web page was a relief. I need some help (or suggestions, or guidance, ANYTHING), on how to deal with a specific family situation involving my in-laws, my wife, and my children. (We currently live with my in-laws and we will continue to live with them for the next year or so.)
My father-in-law, now 52 years of age, discovered one year ago that he has an incurable chronic disease. Since that discovery, his wife has leaped into alternative medicine in an attempt to heal him; her logic and discerning capacity are now gone.
My mother-in-law, began her adventure with Dr. Norman W. Walker and his book Colon Health Key to Vibrant Life, which advocates weekly, if not daily, colonics. After that it was the turn of Dr. Wallach and his "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" audiotape. [Ed: See NCAHF Newsletter January/February 1998 and March/April 1996.] Now it is Dr. Lorraine Day and her "cure-all" videotapes. Then came the "Hallelujah Diet." [Ed: Promoters say the diet is based on God's original instructions in Genesis 1:29.] Recently she just started to listen to another audiotape about "Germs do not cause disease."
Personally, I cannot stand even to be in the same room when she and my wife are listening to these tapes. Needless to say most of this material lacks any reference list, names, studies or any background information.
Every time I attempt, with some solid data on hand, to debunk some of this psycho-health terror I am told: "Maybe they know something you and the doctors don't know." And: "You know, the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies do not want people to know how to get healthy."
Here are some of my mother-in-law's beliefs:
- Frequent "colonics" are needed to "detoxify" yourself.
- Drinking lots of water cures most disease.
- Doctors and modern medicine have not cured any disease ever, not even one.
- Milk and sugar cause AIDS and most of the disease we currently know.
- Cooked food has zero nutritional value-no proteins, nothing, nada, empty food. Only raw foods have nutritional value and have the "enzymes of life."
- Veggie and raw food diets cure AIDS and cancer and most disease.
- Dialysis can be avoided by following a regimen of mineral and vitamin supplements.
- Germs/bacteria and viruses never cause any disease. The disease is inside us and we start it by what we eat.
- 25% of American couples are infertile because they do not take minerals in their diet.
- Kids under the age of ten are dying of heart attacks all over America because of lack of minerals.
Trust me people this is not a joke. My stomach turns every time I hear any of this crap.
All of this is coupled with a change in diet that involves the entire family. We are going toward a more vegetarian style of eating habits, and I need to say that I do not have anything against it. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to have good, healthy meals and frequent exercise. (Personally, I draw the line on the barely green powder; it is just awful and in my opinion, totally useless junk.)
We have three wonderful kids: Peter, 9; Rachel, 5; and Mark, 3. They are healthy and healthy-looking. They eat well (lots of veggies and fruits as well as all the rest).
Here is the problem. My mother-in-law has convinced my wife to have cow milk banned from the kids. (I am the only one who drinks milk-in my coffee.) Soy milk ONLY is allowed for the kids. I have mixed feelings about this, and occasionally "smuggle" my kids a great bowl with cereal, fresh fruits and some good God-sent cow milk, thanks very much. Otherwise, as soon as any one of my kids reaches for the milk carton, here comes the yell: "Do you want to get an ear infection? Don't you know that milk can kill you?"
I have spoken loudly against this and said that I consider it under "psychological child abuse." But I am hitting a brick wall here.
Now, here is the twist: my wife, on suggestion from my mother-in-law, wants
to put Peter on a 7-day juice-only fast in order to "cure" and "detoxify" him from the "poisons" that cause his ear infections. They also want to give him "fruit juices injected via rectum" if he is too sick to eat. Colloidal silver [Ed: see NCAHF Newsletter November/December 1996] has been discussed for the kids too, as a form of "cure-all" antibiotic.
At this point I got REALLY concerned, set my foot down and told my wife that
we really needed to have a serious talk about this "alternative medicine" situation. I consider these practices on a child to be very dangerous, and borderline child abuse.
There is no way I will allow my kids to be subject to the juice fast, colloidal silver or anything like that. I agree completely with this statement on your Web site: "children should have access to rational, responsible health care." You see, I am used to a different approach towards doctors. I go to see the doctor, as needed, and use some good, old common sense. I rely on solid logic, facts, and nothing of all this nonsense.
Do you have any suggestions? Should I talk with our pediatrician (without my wife present)? One more thing: (rhetorical question): How on earth can otherwise "normal" people cave in and believe all this nonsense?
Concerned father in Texas.
NCAHF replied with a note that validated the father's concerns, pointed out that NCAHF has contacts with child healthcare advocates in Texas, and invited the father to contact NCAHF by phone. The father replied via e-mail as follows.
Dear Mr. London,
Thanks for your prompt reply to my e-mail. Please accept my apologies for such a late reply to your letter.
Things are improving since I wrote to you. I showed my letter and your reply to my wife and we had a long, late-night talk about the entire issue. I also printed a lot of material from your Web site and gave her a good read about lots of these "health gurus."
Some of her repeated comments were: "NO WAY!" And, "Oh my gosh!" And later on, "How can they do that?" She is very upset for having allowed her emotions and hope for good health to come into the way of her judgment and common sense.
So juice fast and the other stuff is out of discussion in our family. We will continue with our healthier nutritional habits, since my cholesterol level is quite high and I really need to bring it down. Oh yes, and new running shoes too. So, I am glad that thanks to your Web site and your help, my wife opened her eyes.
As for my mother-in-law, well, we will try to approach her one step at a
time, since I am afraid she is into this big time. For now, I ordered some books for her to read, and I will have her read some stuff off your Web site too. You know, it is sad. My mother-in-law is an exquisite person. She is a businesswoman, 49 years old, a very nice lady with a degree, and really down to earth. She loves her family and her grandchildren with all of her heart and would do nothing to hurt anybody. Unfortunately, she also happens to be a little bit too trusting of "printed paper" and a very easy target for scams of many sorts.
It would be interesting to see on your Web site a section on the psychological angle of health fraud. Why do otherwise normal people fall so easily and deeply and become prey of these alt-medicine practitioners?
Well, Mr. London, thanks again for your help. I will be happy to visit your Web site often and keep it handy as a source of debunking of false science.
NCAHF received an excellent return of ballots to confirm Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS as NCAHF president. Most of the ballots were accompanied by membership renewals or donations to the NCAHF Legal Fund. Dr. Baratz has established a new headquarters for NCAHF in Peabody, MA.
In "Autism Quackery Reviewed" (September/October 2001 issue p. 3) the quotation from Martin Gardner should have read: "Strong evidence that autism is a dysfunction of the brain has been available for half a century, and was taken for granted by neurologists outside the Freudian tradition."