HEALTH

FTC sends refunds to buyers of bogus diet aids

BY Michael Johnsen

As an example of how government agencies are cracking down on outliers purporting to be in the dietary supplement business, the Federal Trade Commission last week mailed 18,301 refund checks totaling more than $437,000 to people who bought bogus diet aids from Colby Fox, Christopher Reinhold and their companies, Tachht and Teqqi. According to the FTC, the defendants bombarded people with illegal spam email and used false celebrity endorsements and false weight-loss claims to pitch their products.

The average check amount was $23.91.

In June 2016, the FTC charged the defendants with paying to send emails from hacked accounts to consumers, making it appear that the messages came from their family members, friends or other contacts. The messages promoted the defendants’ unproven weight-loss products Original Pure Forskolin and Original White Kidney Bean.

Two court orders settling the FTC’s charges, entered in March and September 2017, barred the defendants from the allegedly illegal conduct and required the defendants to pay $500,000 for refunds to defrauded consumers.

FTC law enforcement actions led to more than $6.4 billion in refunds for consumers in a one-year period between July 2016 and June 2017.

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Most severe flu season may go in the books as longest on record, too

BY Michael Johnsen

Not only has this year’s flu season broken records as to how many people have been impacted by the flu, it may soon break records as to how long the season has lasted. For the week ended March 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported influenza-like activity of 3.3%. It’s the 16th week ILI has been reported above the national baseline of 2.2%.

And flu activity is likely to remain elevated for several more weeks, the CDC reported.

Only two seasons in the past 10 years have lasted longer – ILI activity for both the 2016/2017 flu season and the 2012/2013 flu season tracked above the 2.2% baseline for a total of 17 weeks.

According to the CDC, current data indicate that the 2017-2018 flu season peaked at 7.5% in early February and is now on the decline. However, 26 states plus Puerto Rico continue to report widespread flu activity and 12 states continue to experience high ILI activity.

The overall hospitalization rate and all age-specific hospitalization rates are higher than the end-of-season hospitalization rates for 2014-2015, a high severity, H3N2-predominant season. CDC also is reporting an additional 9 flu-related pediatric deaths during week 10, bringing the total number of flu-related pediatric deaths reported this season to 128.

While H3N2 viruses remained predominant overall this season, the proportion of influenza B vs. influenza A viruses is now about even. Early vaccine effectiveness estimates through Feb. 3, 2018 show that flu vaccine has reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor due to flu by 36% overall. VE against H3N2 viruses was 25%. VE against H1N1 67% and VE against B viruses was 42%. CDC recommends prompt treatment with influenza antiviral medications for people who are severely ill and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms.

Since Oct. 1, 2017, 25,676 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported through the Influenza Hospitalization Network, a population-based surveillance network for laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations. This translates to a cumulative overall rate of 89.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.

 

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Vitamin Packs releases drug-nutrients interactions survey

BY Michael Johnsen

According to a recent Vitamin Packs drug-nutrients interactions survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, nearly 40% of Americans who are taking a prescription medication and dietary supplement do not know that vitamins and supplements can impact the effectiveness of prescription medications. And 61% of millennial age respondents assume they don’t need to notify their doctor if they start taking a vitamin supplement, Vitamin Packs, a Seattle-based personalized vitamin subscription service, reported.

“Nutrient deficiencies and diagnosed health conditions often require the use of vitamins and prescription medications, but they can interact. It is critical that users understand potential interactions,” Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer, Cleveland Clinic and Vitamin Packs medical advisory board chair, said. “We know the interaction can occur by direct effect or by changing the metabolism of a drug. Large databases – like electronic medical records and Vitamin Packs’ proprietary database – are key to helping users and health professionals scan for potential interactions. I always recommend that anyone who is looking to add a supplement to their diet should talk with their doctor or a local pharmacist first.”

Vitamin Packs offers subscribers the ability to cross-reference 650 prescription medications before curating a unique combination of nutritional supplements.

According to the survey, nearly 2 in 5 (38%) of survey participants (those already taking vitamins alongside prescription meds) did not know vitamins and supplements can impact the effectiveness of medications. Almost half (45%) of respondents assumed they didn’t need to tell their doctor if they started taking a new vitamin or supplement.

Aside from general wellness, respondents reported taking dietary supplements for energy (51%), heart health (40%), immunity (38%), digestive health (37%), hair or skin health (35%) and sleep (28%).

And half of all participants reported taking five or more different types of pills with them when they travel.

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