Consumer Health Digest #16-14
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 17, 2016
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.
FTC attacks "natural" claims. Four companies that market skin care products, shampoos, and sunscreens online have agreed to settle FTC charges that they falsely claimed that their products were "all natural" or "100% natural," despite the fact that they contain synthetic ingredients. [Four companies agree to stop falsely promoting their personal-care products as "all natural" or "100% natural"; fifth is charged in Commission complaint. FTC news release, April 12, 2016] Under the proposed settlements, each of the four companies is barred from making similar misrepresentations in the future and must have competent and reliable evidence to substantiate any ingredient-related, environmental, or health claims it makes. The Commission has issued a complaint against a fifth company for making similar claims. Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that "all natural" and "100% natural" mean that the product must not contain artificial ingredients. In response to a citizen petition, the FDA is reviewing the use of "natural" claims in labeling.
New Zealand proposal hoped to increase fluoridation. New Zealand Ministry of Health officials have proposed legislative changes to allow District Health Boards (DHBs), rather than local councils, to decide on which community water supplies are fluoridated in their areas. The switchover will require an amendment to Part 2A (Drinking-Water) of the Health Act 1956 and amendments to the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000. Health Minister Jonatham Coleman believes that putting the decision in the hands of health boards should lead to more water supplies being fluoridated. About 2.3 million New Zealanders now have access to fluoridated water, but only 27 of the country's 67 local authorities were fluoridating their water, leaving 1.45 million residents without fluoridation. DHBs make decisions on the health priorities in their areas by assessing health-related evidence. If the amendments are passed before the end of the Parliamentary term in 2017, it is likely that they would take effect in mid-2018. [Proposed legislative changes: Decision-making on the fluoridation of drinking-water supplies. NZ Ministry of Health Web site, accessed April 12, 2016]
Naturopathic "cancer specialist" disciplined. In 2016, Washington's Board of Naturopathy suspended the naturopathy license of Lucinda Messer, N.D., for at least five years. The board's action was based on its conclusion that she had "failed to meet the standard of care, resulting in harm or unreasonable risk of harm" to two patients with advanced colon cancer. (The patients are identified in the board's public records as "Patient A" and "Patient B.") At that time, Messer operated a clinic called Pacific Health Restoration Center and a residential "retreat" called The Goddess Sanctuary, both located in Kirkland, Washington. In 2011 and 2012, her Web site described her as specializing in "integrative oncology" and claimed that she was "able to help all cancer patients with alternative medicines." The methods she offered included Gerson therapy, laetrile, mistletoe injections, thymus extracts, and intravenous vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide, none of which has been proven to benefit cancer patients. As noted below, the board's investigation concluded:
- Messer offered, facilitated and rendered diagnostic and therapeutic interventions with unproven and/or disproven claimed beneficial effects and failed to obtain adequate informed consent.
- Messer falsely represented in advertising that she was able to treat cancer.
- Naturopaths who treat cancer patients are required to consult with or co-manage their care with a medical or osteopathic doctor. However, Messer failed to do this.
- Messer told a board investigator who posed as a cancer patient: "You know, we can't say we treat cancer, but that's silly because we do. I have extensive training in integrative oncology and treat cancer patients all the time."
- Messer self-reported that she had issued prescriptions for drugs that were beyond her scope of practice.
- When Patient A examined her billing records, she found that she had been charged for services that had not been rendered.
- Messer doctored Patient B's records in an attempt to protect herself from possible repercussions from the patient's death one month after starting treatment with Messer.
This page was posted on April 17, 2016.