Consumer Health Digest #13-29

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 1, 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.


Antiquackery gem published. Paul Offit, M.D., Chief of Infection Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has produced a fascinating book about the dangers of "alternative medicine" and several of its leading promoters. The topics include dietary supplements, megavitamins, questionable cancer cures, chelation therapy, and antivaccination scares. The profiled individuals include Mehmet Oz, M.D.; Linus Pauling, Ph.D.; Suzanne Somers; Jenny McCarthy; Rashid Buttar, D.O.; and Stanislaw Burzynski, M.D. The book, Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, is available for $16.61 from Amazon.com.


"Yellow Pages" scams increasing. Dentists throughout the United States have been reporting that companies posing as an online Yellow Pages service have been targeting dentists, saying that they owe money for an Internet phone book listing for which they allegedly contracted. [Fake Yellow Pages company scamming dentists. ADA News, July 15, 2013] The Federal Trade Commission has described this type of scam this way:

First, con artists make cold calls to offices. They ask the person answering the phone to "confirm" the address, telephone number, and other information, claiming it's for a listing the company has in the yellow pages or a similar business directory. The scammers then fire off a rapid series of questions they may tape-record, sometimes sliding in a confusing reference to the cost. The scam works because fraudsters convince the person who picks up the phone that they're just "verifying" an arrangement the company already has with the directory. The con artist then sends urgent "invoices" for $500 or more—sometimes including a copy of the "directory." They're usually worthless and are never distributed or promoted as promised. Often, they're just websites with listings of various businesses. In many cases, the person paying the bills will simply cut a check, not realizing that the company never agreed to pay the hefty fee for the directory. But if businesses resist, the scammers turn up the heat, threatening collection or legal action to get payment. They may use the name of the person who answered the phone or play a "verification tape" as "proof" that the company owes them money. Often these tapes have been doctored or the nature of the transaction was rattled off in a way no one could have understood. If companies stand firm in their refusal to pay for services they didn't authorize, the scammer may try to smooth things over by offering a phony discount. Or they may let the company return the directory—at the company's own cost, of course—but insist on payment for the so-called listing. At this stage, many companies pay up just to stop the hounding. What they don't know is that they'll likely get more bogus invoices—either from the same scam artist or from others who have bought their contact information for a new scheme.


FDA targets illegal diabetes claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an initiative to counter illegally sold products aimed at consumers who have diabetes. In addition to evaluating consumer complaints, the FDA surveyed the marketplace for illegally sold products promised to treat diabetes and its complications. These products were sold as dietary supplements; alternative medicines, such as ayurvedics; prescription drugs; and over-the-counter drugs, including homeopathic products. In July the agency ordered 15 companies to stop breaking the law. Some of these companies were also also marketing unapproved products for cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and macular degeneration, and other serious diseases. [Beware of illegally sold diabetes treatments. FDA Consumer Health Information, July 2013] The FDA advises consumers to consider the following to be "red flags" for diabetes products to avoid:


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This page was posted on August 4, 2013.