Consumer Health Digest #13-05
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 31, 2013
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.
Another group blasts electromagnetic quackery. Toronto-based Bad Science Watch has issued a position paper debunking "electromagnetic hypersensitivity," the alleged intolerance to wireless networking (WiFi ) and other low-level electromagnetic fields (EMF). The paper states:
- Across Canada, anti-WiFi activists are spreading misinformation about WiFi and related technologies. Many blame WiFi networks' low-level radio signals for a broad variety of medical problems, from mild headaches and fatigue to chest pain and heart palpitations, claiming those who suffer from them have electromagnetic hypersensitivity ("EHS").
- This activism is nothing more than fear-mongering by misguided special interest groups who are attempting to have these networks removed.
- The media have been overly willing to fan the flames of controversy and have contributed to a growing false uncertainty over the WiFi safety. As a result, many school boards, libraries, and town councils across Canada have been called on by concerned citizens to limit or remove WiFi networks.
- Those who stand to suffer from these efforts the most are (a) students (especially from low-income families) who rely on wireless networks for access to the Internet and other education resources, and (b) taxpayers who would have to pay for the expensive reversion to wired networks. In addition, families that are misled into believing that their children are suffering from EHS may miss an opportunity for early diagnosis of real health problems in their children.
- People are attempting to profit from the fear-mongering by offering products purporting to block WiFi signals or to diagnose or treat EHS.
Journal attacks quackery.The C2C Journal has published a theme issue with eight articles aimed at quackery. The topics include (a) false promises of homeopathy, (b) why "natural medicine" is unsafe, (c) the artificial promises of organic food, (d) why celebrities and TV doctors are bad for your health, and (e) the danger of medical conspiracy theories. The last of these asserts that increased levels of increased levels of formal education do not seem to discourage the "culture of conspiracy" and that the Internet promotes this by allowing true believers from all over the world to exchange "stigmatized knowledge" more freely than ever. The entire issue is accessible free of charge.
FDA warns against fraudulent flu products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning against fraudulent products claimed to prevent or treat influenza. The The FDA Web site notes:
- Nonprescription products claimed to prevent or treat influenza should be considered fakes.
- The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year.
- Two FDA-approved antiviral drugs—Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir)—may help fight the virus and shorten the duration of illness. They can also be used to help prevent the flu. (Note, however, that a report last year by two Cochrane Collboration reviewers suggests that Tamiflu may not be more effective than aspirin. Doshi P, Jefferson T. Drug data shouldn't be secret. The New York Times, April 10, 2012])
Alleged pyramid scheme halted. At the request of the FTC and the states of Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina, a federal court has halted the operation of Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM), a multilevel company that sold high-speed Internet, home telephone service, auto clubs, travel clubs, cell phone plans, home security systems, beauty care products, and various dietary supplements. [FTC action leads court to halt alleged pyramid scheme: FHTM promoted itself as a path to financial independence, but most people made little or no money.. FTC news release, Jan 28, 2013] According to the complaint filed by the FTC and the state attorneys general:
- The defendants falsely claimed consumers would earn significant income for selling the products and services of companies such as Dish Network, Frontpoint Home Security, and various cell phone providers, and for selling FHTM's line of health and beauty products.
- Nearly everyone who signed up lost more money than they ever made.
- To the extent that consumers could make any income, however, it was mainly for recruiting other consumers, and FHTM's compensation plan ensured that most consumers made little or no money.
The defendants are Paul C. Orberson, Thomas A. Mills, Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing Inc., FHTM Inc., Alan Clark Holdings LLC, FHTM Canada Inc., and Fortune Network Marketing (UK) Limited. On January 24, the court halted the allegedly deceptive practices, froze the defendants' assets, and appointed a temporary receiver over the corporations pending a trial. The relevant documents are posted to the receiver's Web site.
This page was posted on February 3, 2013.