Consumer Health Digest #01-08

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 19, 2001


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.


Mexican cancer clinics under attack. During the past week, Mexican health department authorities ordered two Tijuana clinics to stop administering dubious cancer treatments for which they had no license. On February 15, Biopulse International was told to stop insulin-coma treatment [Crabtree P, Dibble S. Inspectors shut down cancer therapies at BioPulse's Tijuana clinic. San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb 16, 2001.] On February 16, the Century Nutrition clinic, which offers the therapy of Hulda Clark,was ordered to shut down. Press reports indicate that authorities will review the situation and reach a final decision within a few days [Crabtree P, Dibble S. BioPulse to sell its cancer lab in Tijuana. San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb 17, 2001].


"Herbalife story" is largely myth. The Los Angeles Times has published a lengthy background report on Herbalife founder Mark Huges, who died last year from a toxic combination of alcohol and the antidepressant drug Doxepin [Heller M. Death and denial at Herbalife: The untold story of Mark Hughes' public image, secret vice and tragic destiny. Los Angeles Times Magazine, February 18, 2001]. The article describes how Hughes portrayed his life as one of tragedy, resolve, and triumph over adversity, but the real Hughes was a very dysfunctional person with a serious drinking problem. According to Hughes, practically everybody in his childhood family had had a weight problem and he became interested in doing something about this after his mother got "hooked" on a prescription weight control product. But Stuard Hartman, who was married to and lived with Hughes's mother until Hughes was 13 years old, said that she was not overweight and was addicted to the narcotic Percodan, which she combined with Darvon to prolong her "high" periods.


Supreme Court will rule on tobacco ad curbs. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a Massachusetts case in which the lower courts ruled that the state could prohibit marketing practices it considered unfair or deceptive. The state attorney general wants to ban tobacco billboard ads within 1000 feet of schools and playgrounds; ban tobacco product giveaways; and require cigar companies to display prominent warnings in all ads and packaging. [Advertising Age, Jan 15, 2001, p 12.]


Anti-aging "gurus" disciplined. Osteopathic physicians Robert Goldman and Ronald Klatz have agreed to pay $5,000 each to the State of Illinois and to stop identifying themselves as M.D.s in Illinois unless authorized to do so by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. The agreement indicates that each acquired an "M.D." degree from the Central America Health Sciences University School of Medicine in Belize but was not licensed to use the credential in Illinois. The agreement permits them to list the credential in their curriculum vitae as long as it does not closely follow their name. Klatz and Goldman have been associated for many years in activities related to "anti-aging medicine" and the promotion of dietary supplements. The agreements are posted on Quackwatch.


Information wanted on naturopathy treatment failures. Robert S. Baratz, M.D., D.D.S., Ph.D., is interested in receiving first-hand information about failures of treatment by naturopaths. His e-mail address is imcsi@rcn.com.


Jury awards $281,019 to former chiropractic students. On November 18, 2000, a federal court jury delivered a mixed verdict in a suit brought by former students of Cleveland Chiropractic College. The 19 plaintiffs had alleged that (a) they received an inadequate clinical education that left them unprepared for a private practice and (b) they should not have been required to share in the recruitment of patients as part of their clinical experience. The jury (a) found the college did not commit fraud or break a contract with the students; (b) awarded $1 per plaintiff for actual damages; and (c) awarded $15,000 per plaintiff in punitive damages for negligently failing to disclose that the students would have to recruit most of their own patients. During the 2-week trial, the students said that a school statement that the college's clinic had "ample volume and variety" of patients had been crucial in their decision to attend the school. The college indicated that it will appeal the damage award.


Consumer Sentinel site tracks complaints. Consumer Sentinel, a joint project of the FTC, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), and two Canadian agencies, maintains a reporting system and electronic database of complaints about frauds. In 2000, the system received approximately 79,000 complaints totalling $121.7 million Investment schemes, business opportunities, work-at-home schemes, prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries accounted for about $94.6 million (78%) of the total. There were also 2,363 complaints totaling about $1 million related to health care and 1908 complaints totalling about $4.4 million related to multilevel marketing and pyramid schemes.


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This page was revised on March 6, 2001.