Consumer Health Digest #12-04
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 26, 2012
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.
Gary Null sued by product users. Gary Null has been sued three times in connection with his marketing of Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal. The suits charge that users of the products became ill because the product was produced with 1,000 times as much vitamin D as it should have and that Null failed to warn consumers when he discovered this. The complaints filed in 2010 by William Schmidt and Patricia Amato stated that consumption of the products caused them to develop nausea, vomiting, mood swings, headaches, severe cramping, pain, and fatigue. Both cases were settled with undisclosed terms. The third complaint, filed in December 2011 by the executor of the estate of Helen K. Shulman, states that consumption of the product caused Shulman to develop partial kidney failure, heart damage, and hypercalcemia that ultimately led to her death. Null is also suing his own supplier. In April 2010, he alleged that (a) he had nearly died as a result of using the product himself and (b) he and his company had suffered great harm to their reputation. Two weeks later, however, he filed an amended complaint that omitted the allegations related to his own alleged illness. Null is one of the nation's leading promoters of dubious treatment for serious disease. He has refused to answer several questions about his education. [Barrett S. A critical look at Gary Null's activities and credentials. Quackwatch, Jan 22, 2012]
Burzynski sued for fraud. Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D., a controversial provider of cancer treatment, has been accused of swindling an elderly cancer patient out of nearly $100,000. The complaint alleges:
- Burzynski pitched treatment with "antineoplastons" that would supposedly last three weeks.
- Burzynski failed to inform the patient that the treatment would be part of a clinical trial.
- The defendants billed insurance companies for some of the treatments but did not disclose that most of the cost would not be covered.
- The patient was coerced into buying certain drugs from Southern Family Pharmacy at "outrageous" prices and failed to disclose that Burzynski owned the pharmacy.
- The pharmacy charged $500 each for pills that could be purchased elsewhere for much less and charged the patient's credit card without her knowledge.
- The patient was improperly led to believe the prescriptions would be covered by insurance.
- Side effects of Burzynski's "treatment" included weakness, infections, vomiting, fatigue, mouth sores, dizziness, affected taste buds, joint pain, and skin sores.
Burzynski is also facing charges filed by the Texas Medical Board in connection with his treatment of another patient.
"Toxic Mold" guru surrenders medical license. Andrew W. Campbell, M.D.,who operated the Medical Center for Immune & Toxic Disorders in Spring, Texas, has ended ten years of conflict with the Texas Medical Board by surrendering his medical license. Campbell was prone to conclude that patients who consulted him were suffering from allergic disorders related to "toxic mold" exposure and to charge high fees for nonstandard treatments. Between 2004 and 2011, the board filed three complaints against him, one of which stated that in seven cases, he had "relied on junk science," ordered inappropriate tests, and improperly diagnosed "toxigenic mold exposure." Casewatch has further details of the regulatory actions.
Joseph Diruzzo ordered to stop treating patients. On September 19, 2011, the Texas Medical Board entered a cease and desist order prohibiting Joseph A. Diruzzo, of Plano, Texas, from practicing medicine and/or alternative or complementary medicine. The Board found that Diruzzo, who is not licensed as a physician in Texas, offered treatments for medical disorders, promoted himself as a "chiropractic physician" known as "Dr. Joe" and "Dr. Joseph A. Diruzzo," and appeared dressed as a physician in a medical setting. Various Web sites describe him as founder of "prenatal re-imprinting" ("PNRI"), which is said to "re-pattern" the central part of the brain to remove maladaptive and self-destructive personality patterns. Diruzzo held a chiropractic license in New York State from 1982 through 2001. In 1992, he signed a consent agreement in which he stipulated that he had submitted ten insurance forms for chiropractic services that he could not substantiate with documentation. The agreement called for payment of $680 and participation in 100 extra hours of continuing education courses, with at least six hours pertaining to chiropractic recordkeeping.
Paper linking mouse retrovirus to chronic fatigue retracted. The journal Science has retracted a 2009 report which claimed that the xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) was detected in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). [Alberts B. Retraction. Science 334:1636, 2011] The retraction is a blow to patients who expected that further research would lead to effective treatment for CFS. The paper was retracted because other researchers who repeated the study found no evidence of the virus and close examination found evidence of specimen contamination and data misrepresentation. [Cohen J. In a rare move, Science without authors' consent retracts paper that tied mouse virus to chronic fatigue syndrome. ScienceInsider, Dec 22, 2011] XMRV has also been proposed as a cause for autism, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease, but there is currently no evidence to support these hypotheses.
This page was posted on January 26, 2012.