Consumer Health Digest #01-28

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 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.


Gregory Caplinger captured. Gregory Earl Caplinger, the medical impostor who did not show up for the final day of his trial last July, has been returned to a North Carolina jail where he awaits sentencing for wire fraud and money laundering. He is also awaiting trial in Philadelphia on additional charges of wire fraud in connection with his former Dominican Republic clinic. Caplinger surrendered in the Dominican after realizing that he was about to be apprehended. Quackwatch fully describes his bogus credentials and illegal activities.


NCAHF sues sellers of products recommended by Hulda Clark. On June 16, the National Council Against Health Fraud filed suit against the Dr. Clark Research Association, its president David Amrein, and several others who have been selling devices and/or herbal products with claims based on Hulda Clark's books. The suit charges that the defendants violated the California Business and Professions Code by making false advertising claims for the products. [National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc., v. Elixa, Ltd. et al. Complaint for injunction and restitution. Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District]


Eckerd Drugs discontinues "personalized" and "lifestyle" vitamins. Eckerd Drugs, a subsidiary of J.C. Penney, has announced that it is stopping its Web based "Personalized Vitamins" program through which visitors to its Web site can purchase products allegedly formulated in response to the results of a brief, loosely-worded, online questionnaire. Investigators have noted that (a) only a few formulas are available: (b) the ingredients are identical or similar to those of Lederle's Centrum and Eckerd's Central-Vite; and (c) many of the answers have no influence on product composition. Eckerd is also discontinuing its "DailyHealth Nutrition System," which includes six "Lifestyle Packs" said to be formulated according to the customer's lifestyle. All of these packs have the same ingredients as the "personalized vitamin" line. As noted on Quackwatch, identical products can cost $19.95 per month when packaged as "personalized" products, $15.99 per month when packaged as "Lifestyle Packs," and about $1.50 per month when packaged as Central-Vite.


AMA concerned about drug expiration dates. The American Medical Association would like the pharmaceutical industry to determine whether lengthening expiration dates on prescription drugs would be beneficial. The AMA's Policy H-115.983, Expiration Dates and Beyond-Use Dates of Prescription Drugs Products, amended last month by the AMA's House of Delegates, now reads:

The AMA: (1) Supports the inclusion of expiration dates on the containers/labels of prescription drug products and recommends that expiration dates be determined by pharmaceutical manufacturers using scientifically based stability testing with subsequent approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); (2) urges the pharmaceutical industry, in collaboration with purchasers, the FDA, and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), to determine whether lengthening of expiration dates will provide clinical and/or economic benefits or risks to patients and, if this is the case, to conduct longer stability testing on their drug products; (3) (a) recommends that pharmacists place a beyond-use date on the labeling of all prescription medications dispensed to patients, and that the beyond-use date be based on the recommendations in the most recent edition of the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary. . . and (4) encourages the USP, in collaboration with pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy organizations, and the FDA, to continue to explore the development of appropriate stability tests for the determination of scientifically sound beyond-use dates for repackaged products.


Macrobiotic proponent dies of cancer. Aveline Kushi, co-leader of the macrobiotic movement in the United States, died on July 3rd following a 9-year battle with cancer. Macrobiotics is a quasireligious philosophical system that advocates a semivegetarian diet. Proponent books contain case histories of people whose cancers have supposedly disappeared after they adopted macrobiotic eating. However, the only reports of efficacy are testimonials by patients, many of whom received responsible therapy. A family spokesperson said that Aveline underwent standard radiation therapy when the cancer was discovered. When the cancer spread to her bones and she was told there was no other conventional treatment available, she relied on acupuncture and other "Eastern" methods. [Associated Press. Aveline Kushi, 78, Leading proponent of macrobiotic diet. Newsday, July 6, 2001]


Health Canada warns against ephedra use. Health Canada has warned consumers not to use products containing the herb ephedra (ma huang), either alone combined with caffeine and other stimulants, for purposes of weight loss, bodybuilding or increased energy. Reported adverse events range from dizziness, tremors, headaches and irregularities in heart rate, to seizures, psychosis, heart attacks, and stroke. [Advisory not to use products containing Ephedra or ephedrine, June 14, 2001]


Free newsletter about herbs and supplements. Natural Medicine News® is biweekly electronic newsletter that summarizes scientific reports and other news about herbs and dietary supplements. Its editor, Forrest Batz, PharmD, is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco and a former assistant editor of the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Free subscriptions—available to practitioners, educators, and
students of the health professions for noncommercial, personal use—can obtained by contacting fbatz@sonic.net.


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This page was revised on July 9, 2001.