Consumer Health Digest #06-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 10, 2006


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. 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.


New report blasts MLM industry. Robert L. Fitzpatrick, who operates the Web site Pyramid Scheme Alert, has published a 43-page report which elaborates his belief that the vast majority of people who become distributors for multilevel marketing companies lose money. The report includes analyses of data from Amway-Quixtar, Arbonne, Cyberwize.com, Free Life, Melaleuca, Nikken, Nuskin, and Reliv. [Fitzpatrick RL. The Myth of "Income Opportunity" in Multi-Level Marketing. Pyramid Scheme Alert, 2005]


California appeals court upholds insurance fraud ruling. A California Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling under which chiropractors Steven P. and Aster Kifle-Thompson were assessed $479,115 plus $1.2 million for legal fees for fraudulently billing the Monterey Mushrooms packing company for treatments allegedly provided to its employees. The company, which is the largest mushroom distributor in the U.S., sued the couple under the California Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, which permits district attorneys to grant permission to private firms to sue on behalf of the state. The suit charged that the defendants had set up sham medical corporations that relied on the credentials of out-of-state medical doctors so they could increase the amounts billable under the state's medical fee schedule, which limits chiropractic charges. Company officials became suspicious after they began receiving double and triple billings from former chiropractic offices that had begun practicing as medical corporations. In some cases, more than one claim was filed for a single treatment session. Three other defendants reportedly settled before trial. Steven Thompson was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud in 1997 by the Monterey County District Attorney and had his chiropractic license revoked in 2000.


Adelle Davis book harms another child. Australian physicians have reported that an 11-month-old child developed severe anemia and was hospitalized after ten months of consuming a homemade formula of barley water, corn syrup, and goat's milk. The child's parents stated that they were following advice in Adelle Davis's book Let's Have Healthy Children. [Ziegler DS. Goat's milk quackery. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health 41:569-571, 2005] Davis, who died in 1974, wrote several popular books that were filled with unsubstantiated advice that was sometimes dangerous. Four other cases of children who were harmed by the an earlier version of the same book have been reported. [Barrett S. Adelle Davis's legacy. Quackwatch, Jan 9, 2006]


FDA device approval loophole criticized. BusinessWeek has reported how the FDA's 510(k) approval process is being used as a "back door" for devices that are claimed to be similar to previously approved devices but are intended for nonapproved uses. The article describes how the manufacturer of the Cavitat ultrasound device got FDA approval for one purpose but marketed it for another. A former FDA official told the BusinessWeek reporters that, "It's easy to manipulate the system to get on the market." [Weintraub A, Barrett A. [Is this diagnosis real? A radical treatment prompts a lawsuit by Aetna—and raises questions for the FDA. BusinessWeek, Jan 16, 2006, pp 34-36] Although Cavitat's 510(k) documents state that the device would be used together with other methods of diagnosing disease, it has been marketed as a stand-alone device for detecting neuralgia inducing "cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO), a condition that lacks scientific recognition. [Dodes JE, Barrett S. A critical look at cavitational osteopathosis, NICO, and "biological dentistry."] The University of Texas is implicated in NICO's promotion. [Barrett S. Aetna rips the lid off the Cavitat conspiracy. Dental Watch, Nov 23, 2005]


Eli Lilly fined $36 million for off-label promotion. Eli Lilly and Company has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a total $36 million to settle criminal and civil charges related to its marketing of Evista, which is FDA-approved for preventing and treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. The criminal case involved charges that the company executed an elaborate scheme to persuade doctors that Evista would reduce the risks of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. [Eli Lilly and company to pay u.s. $36 million relating to off-label promotion. U.S. Dept. of Justice news release, Dec 21, 2005]


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This page was posted on January 10, 2006.