Consumer Health Digest #11-44
December 29, 2011
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by
Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D. 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.
###British pharmacy chain withdraws homeopathic claims from shelves.
Boots, a major UK pharmacy chain, has stopped displaying information
about the purposes of the homeopathic products they sell. The action
was taken after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory
Agency (MHRA) upheld a complaint that Boots's point-of-sale
advertising contained prohibited information. This advertising, found
in many stores, consisted of a book of flip cards that listed
indications, symptoms, and homeopathic products. The MHRA ruled that
the products were not licensed with indications because the MHRA's
Simplified Rules Scheme for homeopathic products prohibits stating
the purposes for which they can be used. [Boots told to stop making
medical claims for pills with no active ingredient. The Nightingale
Collaboration Web Site, December 2011] http://www.nightingale-collaboration.org/news/107-boots-told-to-stop-making-medical-claims-for-pills-with-no-active-ingredient.html
The MHRA's proposed policy document, Homeopathic medicines: Guidance
for advertising, is posted at http://www.homeowatch.org/reg/mhra.pdf
###Blog examines whether pharmacists should sell homeopathic products.
Scott Gavura, who operates Science-Based Pharmacy, is a Canadian
pharmacist who believes that it is unethical for pharmacists to sell,
promote, or encourage the sale or use of homeopathy.
[Homeopathy: To sell or not to sell? Pharmacists weigh in, Nov 30, 2011] http://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/homeopathy-to-sell-or-not-to-sell-pharmacists-weigh-in/
The posted comments from other pharmacists include:
**"Selling a preparation which is known not to work would be exactly
the same . . . . as the same Pharmacist going out the back, filling a
bottle with water from the tap and selling it to the customer. . . .
If you don't think that there is an ethical problem, give it to the
customer for free, after all it cost next to nothing to prepare."
**"I've seen Oscillococcinium on the shelf at Shoppers Drug Mart,
right next to 'real' cold and flu medications. There was no
indication (that an unsuspecting member of the public would spot)
that there was any difference between the homeopathic sugar pills and
the real medicines. If I didn't know better, I might well pick up the
pseudo-medicine ('no side effects!') and waste my money. Worse, if my
cold got better right away, as many colds do, I might become
convinced that it worked and seek out homeopathic treatment for more
serious illnesses in future. That, I think, is the real danger in
pharmacists selling homeopathy: it is a gateway drug to more serious
rejection of real medical treatment. It's a slippery slope form
harmless cold non-remedies to quack cancer treatments."
###Alleged stem scammers charged.
Three men have been arrested for their participation in a scheme to
manufacture, distribute and sell to the public stem cells and stem
cell procedures that were not FDA-approved: Francisco Morales, of
Brownsville, Texas; Alberto Ramon, of Del Rio, Texas; and Vincent
Dammai, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Lawrence Stowe
, of Dallas,
Texas, also charged in relation to this case, is considered a
fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. The
defendants allegedly conspired to commit mail fraud and unlawfully
distributed stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.
[Federal Indictments Lead to Arrests in Stem Cell Case, U.S. Attorney's Office
news release, Dec 28, 2011] http://www.fbi.gov/sanantonio/press-releases/2011/federal-indictments-lead-to-arrests-in-stem-cell-case
According to the indictments:
**The defendants distributed and used stems cells produced from
umbilical cord blood treat persons suffering from cancer, amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS) and other serious
**From 2007 to 2010, Morales, who falsely represented that he was a
licensed physician in the United States, operated the Rio Valley
Medical Clinic in Brownsville, Texas, but would travel to Mexico to
perform the stem cell procedures on his patients.
**Stowe, who sometimes pretended to be a doctor, operated The Stowe
Foundation and Stowe Biotherapy Inc., through which he promoted and
marketed stem cells and other unapproved drug and biological products
for the treatment of cancer, ALS, MS and Parkinson's disease.
**The stem cells referenced in the indictment were created and
manufactured from umbilical cord blood obtained from birth mothers
who were patients of Ramon-a licensed midwife who operated The
Maternity Care Clinic in Del Rio, Texas.
**Ramon sold the cord blood to Global Laboratories, in Scottsdale,
Arizona, which sent the tissue to Dammai-a professor of pathology and
laboratory medicine in Charleston, S.C.
**Without obtaining approval, Dammai used university facilities to
create stem cells that were later sold by Global Laboratories.
**The defendants received more than $1.5 million from patients
suffering from incurable diseases.
Last April, CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a hard-hitting undercover report
about the defendants' activities. [21st century snake oil: "60
Minutes" cameras expose medical con men who prey on dying victims.
CBS News, April 18, 2010] Two indictments are posted on Casewatch,
one for Morales, Ramon, and Dammai http://www.casewatch.org/doj/stowe/morales_indictment.pdf
, and the other for Stowe and Morales. http://www.casewatch.org/doj/stowe/stowe_indictment.pdf
Other issues of the Digest are accessible through http://www.ncahf.org/digest11/index.html
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Stephen Barrett, M.D.
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