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Consumer Health Digest #03-37

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 23, 2003

 


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.


FDA warns against star anise teas. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers not to drink teas brewed from star anise, which have been associated with adverse effects in about 40 people, including 15 infants. The reported problems include seizures, vomiting, jitteriness, and rapid eye movement. Because the specific type of star anise involved has not been identified, the agency is advising avoidance of Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum), which is known to be toxic, Chinese star anise (Illicium verum), which is ordinarily considered safe but may be mixed with the Japanese type. Use of the teas has been based on unsubstantiated claims that they are effective against colic. [FDA issues advisory on star anise "teas." News release, Sept 10, 2003]


Chinese herbal weight-loss products cause liver toxicity. Twelve cases of liver injury have been reported in Japan among people who used Chaso and Onshido, which were found to be adulterated with N-nitroso-fenfluramine, a variant of the appetite-depressant drug fenfluramine (Pondimin). One patient developed liver failure and died; another required liver transplantation. [Adachi M and others. Hepatic injury in 12 patients taking the herbal weight loss aids Chaso or Onshido. Annals of Internal Medicine 139:488-492, 2003].


FDA seizes products from Jean's Greens. The FDA has initiated a seizure of about $4,000 worth of teas and tea mixes from Jean's Greens, an herbal company in Norway, New York. The seizure was triggered by claims that the products could cure cancer and other diseases. In 2001, the FDA warned the company to stop claiming that forticel tea was effective against cancers, ulcer, headaches, kidney disorders, digestive and intestinal problems, and chronic and degenerative conditions. [Woyshner JG. Warning letter to Jean Argus, Nov 28, 2001] The company's Web site remains filled with illegal claims.


Aerobic oxygen marketers warned. The FDA has warned the proprietors of Aerobic Oxygen USA, of Covington, Louisiana, to stop making illegal claims that their product is effective against hangover, angina, asthma, emphysema, bronchial infections, sinus infections, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, candida, diabetes, and food poisoning. [Walker SJ. Warning letter to Aerobics Oxygen USA. June 23, 2003] The company's Web site is now password-protected, but the claims can be viewed through the Internet Archive.


Herbal products not proven effective against menopausal symptoms. A literature review has found "no convincing evidence" for the use of herbal products in treating menopausal symptoms. Their investigation identified 18 randomized trials, 4 involving black cohosh; 4 red clover; 3 kava; 1 each of dong, quai, evening primrose oil, and ginseng; and 4 combination products. [Huntley AL, Ernst E. A systematic review of herbal medicinal products for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Menopause10:465-476, 2003] The authors concluded:


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This page was posted on September 23, 2003.