Consumer Health Digest #01-15

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
April 9, 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.


Man arrested for sale of bogus AIDS cure. M. Keith Ives, and Ives Health Company, Inc., of Claremore, Oklahoma, have been charged with conspiracy and wire fraud for marketing "T-Factor" as a miracle drug for AIDS. The criminal complaint accused them of conspiring to sell a drug not approved by the FDA. The product said to be made from the thymus, pituitary, spleen and lymph glands of freshly slaughtered calves, sold on the Internet for $49 for a month's supply, and a less potent version, Immune 2000, was sold through grocery and drug stores, including the Winn-Dixie chain. On March 6, the Securities and Exchange Commission halted trading in Ives stock after regulators questioned the accuracy of its statements about "T-Factor." The misrepresentations were exposed in a series of articles by David Evans of Bloomberg News. One article quoted Robert Badeen, the company's former vice president for research, as saying that Ives had misrepresented a study he conducted to test the effectiveness of "T-Factor."


Chiropractors recommend inappropriate treatment. As part of a lengthy investigation, Canoe.ca took a healthy 11-year-old girl to five Toronto-area chiropractors for a check-up. The chiropractors were told: (a) Judy was generally in good health, but suffered a few earaches, some mild headaches, and a few signs of allergy symptoms; and (b) the child's mother was worried about the possibility of asthma and had heard from neighbors that chiropractic care could benefit. Four of the five chiropractors said the girl had spinal misalignments that were affecting her health, but they diagnosed different misalignments and different health problems. Among other things, they found one shoulder lower than the other, one leg longer than the other, one hip higher than the other, one ear lower than the other, something called "anterior head carriage", scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, early osteoarthritis, and subluxations in the upper, middle and lower back, but not necessarily in the same vertebrae. [Benedetti P. Testing Pediatric Chiropractic Four out of five chiropractors find different problems with the spine of a perfectly healthy little girl. Canoe.ca., March 4, 2001.]


FDA asked to investigate herbal beverage. The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has asked the FDA to review the labeling of Arizona Rx Memory Mind Elixir, a green tea beverage said to be ''infused with mind-enhancing ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng . . . a safe and certain tonic.'' [NAD recommends that Arizona Iced Tea discontinue its "Rx Memory" Label, NAD news release, April 4, 2001.] The promotion is misleading because no. study shows that ginkgo biloba improves the memory normal healthy adults. The drink is one of five "Rx Elixirs" sold by the Arizona Beverage Company (a subsidiary of the Hormel Brewing Company) with an "Rx" symbol on its label. The others are Rx Stress Relief Elixir, RxHealth Immune Elixir, Rx Energy Body Elixir, and Rx Power Herbal Punch.. Hornell told NAD that the "Rx" on its label is ".a mere fanciful use of the letters and . . . there is no implication that the product serves any other purpose than to provide refreshment," and asserted that inclusion of a disclaimer would eliminate any potential for confusion.


Cellasene class action suit consolidated. Attorneys and plaintiffs with previously filed class action suits in Florida and California have joined forces to form a single action. The suit charges that Rexall Corporation engaged in "deception, misrepresentation, false, misleading and unconscionable statements and practices" in connection with the labeling and sale of Cellasene, an herbal product that was falsely alleged to eliminate cellulite. The suit charges that Rexall has generated sales of over $70 million during the two years since Cellasene's introduction. The suit document has been posted to MLM Watch.


Free book available to public libraries. Kurt Butler's book Lying for Fun and Profit reveals how talk shows and other media outlets promote quackery without the slightest concern about whether or not they harm their audience. He also describes his many efforts to counter the problem. A free copy is available to public libraries. Librarians interested in obtaining a free copy should contact Dr. Stephen Barrett (sbinfo@quackwatch.com) for instructions.


"Wilson syndrome" linked to thyroid overdosage. State investigators are trying to determine whether thyroid medications provided by compounding pharmacists are responsible for the hospitalization of three patients in the metropolitan Atlanta area. [Teegarden C. State drug agents looking for link between thyroid capsules, ailments. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 29, 2001.] All three patients had been given T3 (a thyroid hormone) prescribed for "Wilson's syndrome," a bogus diagnosis invented by E. Denis Wilson, a Florida physician who claimed to have discovered a type of abnormally low thyroid function in which routine blood tests of thyroid are often normal. Wilson claimed that the condition could cause more than 70 symptoms but was treatable with T3. His license was suspended after one of his patients died from excessive T3 he prescribed. The American Thyroid Association subsequently issued a position statement debunking Wilson's theories.


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This page was posted on April 10, 2001.