Consumer Health Digest #14-10

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 23, 2014


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.


Bad Science Watch blasts proposed TCM drug regulation. The Canadian consumer protection group Bad Science Watch has expressed serious concerns about Health Canada's monograph "Traditional Chinese Medicine Ingredients (TCMI)." The group stated:


Kevin Trudeau sentenced to prison. Former infomercial king Kevin Trudeau has been convicted of criminal contempt and sentenced to ten years in prison for violating a previous consent decree. In 2004, to settle FTC charges that he had made false claims in several infomercials, Trudeau agreed to pay a $2 million penalty and be banned from appearing in, producing, or disseminating future infomercials that advertise any type of product, service, or program to the public, except for truthful infomercials for books, newsletters, and other informational publications. In addition, he was prohibited from making health claims for any type of product, service, or program in any form of advertising. The broad prohibition was issued because Trudeau was a repeat offender who, in 1998, had settled charges that six infomercials in which he appeared were misleading. He agreed to pay $500,000 in consumer redress and establish a $500,000 escrow account or bond to assure future compliance with the law. [Infomercial marketers settle FTC charges: Ad claims For "Hair Farming," "Mega Memory System," "Addiction Breaking System," "Action Reading," "Eden's Secret," and "Mega Reading" were deceptive. FTC news release, Jan 13, 1998] Despite the injunctions, Trudeau continued to produce and/or participate in misleading infomercials and to portray himself as a victim of government harassment.

In 2006, Trudeau began using infomercials to market The Weight-Loss Cure "They" Don't Want Your to Know About. The supposed "cure" was centered around the use of injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). However, scientific studies demonstrated that HCG injections didn't cause weight loss and regulatory actions by the FTC and FDA have curbed their use in the United States. In 2007, the FTC charged Trudeau with violating the 2004 consent agreement by misrepresenting the book's methodology as "easy," and asked the Illinois Federal Court to hold him in civil contempt. The civil proceeding ultimately resulted in an order from Judge Robert Gettleman that he pay a $37.6 million sanction, which he claims he is unable to do. Gettleman also asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute him for criminal contempt. Trudeau was subsequently tried by a jury and found guilty. The sentencing judge (Ronald Guzman) called Trudeau "deceitful to the core" and said he had "treated federal court orders as if they were mere suggestions . . . or at most impediments to be sidestepped, outmaneuvered, or just ignored." [Meisner J. TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau sentenced to 10 years in prison. Chicago Tribune, March 17, 2014] Casewatch has additional information on Trudeau's sordid regulatory history.


Study finds health-related conspiracy beliefs are widespread. Researchers who studied the responses of 1351 U.S. adults to an online survey have concluded that conspiracy beliefs about cancer cures, cell phones, the spread of HIV infection, genetically modified foods, vaccines, and fluoridation beliefs are widespread and are correlated with various health-related behaviors. For example, 37% agreed that the FDA is intentionally suppressing natural cures for cancer because of drug company pressure; 20% agreed that corporations were preventing public health officials from releasing data linking cell phones to cancer; 20% that doctors and the government still want to vaccinate children even though they know such vaccines to be dangerous; and 12% agreed that fluoridation is really a secret way for chemical companies to dump dangerous waste products into the environment. Overall, 49% agreed with at least one medical conspiracy theory, and 18% agreed with three or more. The study also found that conspiracism correlates with greater use of "alternative" medicine and avoidance of science-based medicine and that "high" believers were more likely to buy farm-stand or "organic" foods and use herbal supplements and less likely to use sunscreen or get flu shots or annual checkups. [Oliver JE, Wood T. Medical conspiracy theories and health behaviors in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine, March 17, 2014]


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This page was posted on March 23, 2014.