Dr Oz ridiculed on YouTube

Posted 23 February 2015

Comedian John Oliver’s hilarious 16-minute video about Dr. Oz’s promotion of “miracle” supplements is now available on YouTube.

safety and quality of herbal supplements

Posted 13 February 2015

This interesting article written by the pharmacist, Scott Gavura, in 2013 (but still relevant) and posted to Science-Based Medicine, argues that it is unfair to require decent proof that certain medicines are safe, and have efficacy, compared to others, e.g., complementary medicines.

Some extracts that are pertinent.

“And when it comes to ensuring the products we buy are of high quality, we’re all effectively reliant on regulation to protect us. As a pharmacist, I can’t personally verify that each tablet in your prescription contains the active ingredient on the label. I am dependent on a supply chain that may stretch around the world. While the product manufacturer may be reputable, it’s only a regulator that can realistically verify and enforce production to strict quality standards. The same cannot be said for products like supplements and herbs which are regulated differently than drugs, and held to different, and in some cases, weaker standards.”

“Without the purification and standardization offered by finding, isolating, and then testing the active ingredient, herbal products will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to quality, consistency, and predictability of effect.”

“Once we swallow a substance, be it a herb or a drug, our body can’t distinguish the difference. Chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream, circulate in the body, and presumably reach the site of action and then have some sort of biological effect. They are eventually excreted, sometimes only after being transformed in the liver. The more consistent the original product, the more predictable the response in the body. Given the similarities of how herbs and drugs behave in the body, it’s hard to understand the rationale for a completely different regulatory standard for herbs.”

“The separate regulatory systems for natural products, supplements and herbs in Canada and the United States have led to a boon in the development and sale of these products. The barriers to establishing a business are trivial compared to drugs. Importantly, there’s no requirement to actually demonstrate your product works. There’s not even a requirement to show your product is consistent batch-to-batch, because to show that you’d first need to demonstrate some objective and measurable effects. Finally and most importantly, there’s really no simple way for a regulator to actually test to see if what you’re putting in the capsule (for herbs) is actually what you say.” 

Continue reading the original posting

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Revoking the license of any health professional?

Posted 13 February 2015

South Africa is not immune to health professionals who “substantiate” or support scam products in spite of no evidence that the product is no more than just that, a scam.

This article, Revoke the license of any doctor who opposes vaccination, published in the Washington Post, written by Arthur L. Caplan, the director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health, makes a strong argument that “Doctors who purvey views based on anecdote, myth, hearsay, rumor, ideology, fraud or some combination of all of these, particularly during an epidemic, should have their medical licenses revoked“.

Although his opinion is directed primarily at health professionals and related to vaccination, we suggest that the same should apply to any health professional whose ‘professional opinion’ is used to substantiate a product that in fact is not supported by good evidence. For example, as pointed out by Judge Kate O’Regan in the ruling of the Final Appeal Committee (FAC) of the ASA in the Herbex Fat Attack matter, that Dr David Nye’s opinion that the product worked was contradicted by the very scientific evidence he supplied to the FAC to make this claim.

Continue reading » Revoking the license of any health professional?

USN ‘Carb binder’ – the scam continues

Posted 10 February 2015

In a previous complaint to the ASA, the claims made for USN Carb binder was questioned and argued to be false. USN claimed for the product:

  • Starch Intake Inhibitor

We argued that there is no evidence to support these claims for this product, which has white kidney bean as its active constituent. Remember: USN first sold this product as USN Carb Blocker but changed the name to Carb Binder when the ASA ruled against the claims (including the name).

In the ruling of the ASA, dated 27 Jun 2014, USN argued that they will be withdrawing the claims: “all its advertising would have efficacy claims withdrawn pending registration”. Remember, the name of a product can also claim efficacy, so “Carb  Binder” claims that the product binds carbs. Can one trust a snake oil salesman?

No! This USN is still distributing this product to retailers, using packaging making the same claims, albeit not all. Continue reading » USN ‘Carb binder’ – the scam continues

Monitoring herbal products

Posted 09 February 2015

How does one know whether a herbal extract contains the original plant or the chemicals found in that plant? In this background document at Herbal Gram (American Botanical Society), some information is given.

Continue reading » Monitoring herbal products

Class-action suit filed against “memory supplement” marketers

Posted 09 February 2015

A class-action suit has been filed against Quincy Bioscience LLC, which has marketed Prevagen for several years. The company claims that the product works by re-supplying memory-related proteins that decline as people age. The complaint charged:

  • The product cannot work as advertised because its only purported active ingredient, apoaequorin (a protein), is completely destroyed by the digestive system and transformed into common amino acids no different than those derived from other common food products.
  • The amount of amino acids Prevagen adds to the user’s intake are trivial in comparison to normal dietary intake.
  • Claims that clinical tests demonstrate that Prevagen will improve memory and support healthy brain function, sharper mind, and clearer thinking are false.
  • Studies touted in Prevagen’s marketing campaign “if they exist at all, are, on their face, so seriously flawed that they demonstrate nothing regarding Prevagen.”

In 2012, the FDA warned Quincy that (a) several claims made for Prevagen were illegal, (b) clinical trials it had sponsored were illegal because they lacked FDA approval, (c) the company had failed to adequately report adverse reactions to its products, and (d) the company had failed to comply with various Good Manufacturing Practices.

New York Attorney General targets herbal marketers

Posted 09 February 2015

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has sent letters ordering GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens to stop selling store-brand herbal products that could not be verified to contain the labeled substance(s), or which were found to contain ingredients not listed on their labels. The products included echinacea, ginseng, and St. John’s wort. The letters were sent because DNA tests performed as part of the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation found that only 21% of the products contained ingredients listed on their labels. Quackwatch has more details plus links to the warning letters. The investigation was triggered by a New York Times report about a Canadian study which found widespread discrepancies between the ingredients listed on the labels of 44 popular products and those found in the products.

Continue reading » New York Attorney General targets herbal marketers

Clicks/GNC in the poo?

Posted 06 February 2015

Clicks launched the supplement range, GNC, in SA last March AFTER new CAM regulations were published, regulations which in essence made these products illegal. Makes you wonder about the scruples and ethics of the company and its directors.

On Monday, 2nd February 2015, New York attorney-general Eric Schneiderman ordered GNC, Walmart, Target and Walgreens to stop selling some of their brands after tests found only one in five products contained the herbs on their labels, and that most of them contained cheap fillers such as powdered rice.

Of course, GNC (and Clicks), stand by this range of products: ““GNC stands by the efficacy of its products. It has removed them in New York but not elsewhere,” Mr Kristafor said at Clicks’ head office in Woodstock.”

One vital aspect not addressed by anyone is this simple facts: there is little to no evidence to back up ANY claims being made for these products. In other words, even if the products DID contain the active ingredients, the possibility of the claims being valid would be no more likely than if it did not contain the active ingredients. In other words, does the product work! Unlikely. Certainly not supported by evidence.

Continue reading » Clicks/GNC in the poo?

Magnesium Inflama Spray – ASA breach ruling

Posted 05 February 2015

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA Marcelle du Plessis, the owner of Miracle Magnesium, shows no remorse and continues to scam consumers by making claims for her products.

In spite of ASA rulings, which restricts magazines and newspapers from accepting adverts for her products, she manages to convince these publishers to accept her advertisements. In this complaint, the argument was made that newspapers were accepting her advertising, and that this was a breach of the previous rulings.

The ASA agreed, and have instituted sanctions asking all media to not accept any advertising for ANY of her products, and not only those in breach of a previous ruling.

Continue reading » Magnesium Inflama Spray – ASA breach ruling

Deceptive marketing of Stem Enhance / StemEnhance

Posted 04 February 2015

FDA Advisory No. 2013-025

The Food and Drug Administration has monitored the product STEM ENHANCETM that is being promoted and sold on-line and dubiously labeled as a Dietary Supplement that Supports the Natural Release of Adult Stem Cells, manufactured by STEMTech Health Sciences. Inc. of Klamath Falls, Oregon, USA. This product is not registered by the FDA (
Continue reading » Deceptive marketing of Stem Enhance / StemEnhance