Consumer Health Digest #09-26
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
June 25, 2009
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.
Compounding pharmacy indicted. Sean Shafer and The Compounding Center, Inc.,of Phoenix, Arizona have been charged with illegally distributing human growth hormone. It is a federal crime to knowingly distribute human growth hormone for any use in humans other than for the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition for which use has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The indictment alleges:
- The pharmacy's Web site specifically touted the impermissible use of HGH as being effective to reverse a wide range of signs and symptoms associated with aging.
- Most purchasers were doctors whose practice purportedly provided anti-aging treatment.
- From 2001 through 2006, nine doctors (identified as Drs. A through I) made more than 400 separate purchases of a growth hormone product totaling more than $1.1 million.
- Shaffer, in his capacity as the manager of the wholesale department of the Compounding Center, also sold a number of HGH kits to two undercover operatives who specifically told him that the purchases were for bodybuilders and athletes.
Misleading Bayer ad draws fire. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has notified Bayer Healthcare that it will sue the company if it continues to claim that the selenium in its One A Day vitamins may reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer. CSPI also complained to the FTC. Advertisements and labels for One A Day Men’s 50+ Advantage and One A Day Men’s Health Formula claim that "emerging research" suggests that selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. But nine prostate cancer researchers say there is scant evidence to support such a claim and have joined CSPI in urging the FTC to put an immediate stop to the deceptive claims. Last year the 7-year Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) involving 35,000 U.S. and Canadian men was halted when researchers determined that selenium was not protecting the men from prostate cancer and may have been causing diabetes in some of them. CSPI says the disputed One A Day claims violate a consent decree that Bayer signed with the FTC in 2007. That year, the company paid a $3.2 million fine related to weight-loss claims made on behalf of One A Day multivitamin WeightSmart and agreed not to make unsubstantiated claims in the future.
Support grows for Simon Singh libel defense. More than 12,000 people have signed the online petition of support for Simon Singh, the British science writer who lost a motion to dismiss a libel suit because the judge ruled that the word "bogus." must be interpreted as deliberately dishonest. The case arose after Simon Singh criticized the British Chiropractic Association for claiming that its members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Singh is appealing the judge's ruling, and Sense About Science is spearheading a campaign to modify the laws, which are heavily weighted against writers. The potentially chilling effects of libel threats in the United Kingdom have been noted by The Guardian, The Times, Daily Mail, The Independent, Nature, British Medical Journal, The Economist, Times Higher Education, Sunday Times, FT, Wall Street Journal, Private Eye, The Observer, Channel 4, the BBC, and media outlets in several other countries. Several members of Parliament have also expressed support.
Interest in the case also appears to have had an effect on chiropractic Web sites. Sense about Science reports that during the past week, hundreds of chiropractic Web sites were taken down following questions by bloggers and urgent instructions from chiropractic organizations to avoid breaking the rules on medical claims for chiropractic services.
This page was posted on June 26, 2009.