Scams for everyone

Now that you have read in the Chieftain about the new weight reducing drugs and their high price, you might have guessed that someone, somewhere would come up with a way to provide you with a cheaper way to bring you this desirable medication.

I have already seen one ad for “GLP-1 Weight management. Only $297 per month. Includes Doctor & Medication, No Hidden Fees-No Insurance Needed.” This is accompanied by what are known as compounding pharmacies who are able to put together drugs that are FDA-approved when there is a shortage or a clinical need for a drug such as Ozempic, according to Coukell in Sept./Oct. 2023 Nutrition Action magazine. He notes that the FDA does inspect such facilities but not at the same level of oversight that an FDA-approved drug requires.

Also, the FDA does not verify the safety or effectiveness of compounded drugs and cannot guarantee that the compounded drugs are made properly. The FDA, Aug. 18, 2023, claims that it has received reports that some compounders may be using salt forms of the active ingredient used in Ozempic and Wegony which are different from the salt forms shown to be safe and effective.

It is almost impossible for compounding pharmacies to make these drugs because Novo Nordisk, the legitimate manufacturer, does not share the drug ingredients with the compounding pharmacist. Even worse would be buying these drugs from rogue, online pharmacies, which could be dangerous or even deadly. These pharmacies could have future problems with state and federal governments as well.

You may remember the Chieftain article dealing with the memory drug, Prevagen, which claimed that the supplement was clinically shown to improve memory. However, the FTC and the NY Attorney General found that Prevagen was no more effective than a placebo at improving memory. A federal appeals court allowed the FTC and the State of New York to take action against Prevagen for misleading memory claims.

Well, what do we do now to improve our memory? How about Neuriva, a brain supplement touted by Maylin Bialik? Bialik is a real neuroscientist with a PhD in neuroscience and even plays one on the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”.

Dr. Hall at Science Based Medicine, Nov. 28, 2021, claims that science has not proven Neuriva clinically effective. The company that produces it is the same company that makes Airborne, a bogus cold remedy. Neuriva contains only two ingredients, phosphatidylserine and coffee cherry extract (what is left over after coffee beans have been removed.) The former ingredient showed improved memory in aged mice, but did not affect memory in older individuals with memory complaints. Despite its advertising claims, Neuriva has not been properly tested in a controlled clinical study, according to Dr. Hall. Neuriva plus just added some vitamins, but has not been clinically tested. Neuriva has an $8 million false ad class settlement between Neuriva memory supplement and consumers in Florida.

Remember, that Harvard Health, Aug. 8, 2023, tells us “Don’t buy into brain health supplements.” They tell us that “there’s no solid proof that any of them work.” The main issue with all over-the counter supplements is lack of regulation. The FDA doesn’t oversee product testing or ingredient accuracy. The manufacturers of these brain health supplements don’t have to back up any claims that their product is effective, according to Harvard Health.

Wouldn’t we do better if we just guaranteed that we took in the daily recommendation of fruits and vegetables in easy to take, though expensive, capsules such as the dietary supplement – Balance of Nature? As of Nov.1, 2023, Balance of Nature Fruits and Veggies cost $89.95/month or $69.95 for subscribers (without further actions by consumers). One NYC law firm, upon investigation, found evidence that suggests that Balance of Nature may have funneled users into paid subscription plans, deliberately hiding the fact that those plans will automatically renew.

The FDA, Aug. 2019,  however, found evidence that this dietary supplement was “adulterated”, meaning not compliant with current good manufacturing regulations and that the company had failed to implement quality control measures. The company also made false advertising claims for its dietary supplement, including that the supplement could reduce the risk of cancer. Another claim, according to CBS News, July 31, 2023 was that one serving of its fruit products, which weighs about 2 grams, contained the “nutritional equivalent of over five servings of fruit per dose.”

Still another claim was that one serving each of two of their products would provide as much nutrition as 10 servings of salad. The company allegedly told customers that customers take 12 capsules each of Fruit and Veggies supplements if they had been diagnosed with “life threatening illnesses.” The company also claimed that its product could prevent, treat or cure serious diseases including diabetes, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and heart disease. Balance of Nature’s company was ordered to pay $850,000 in civil penalties and investigative costs and $250,000 in customer retribution on July 26, 2023. Balance of Nature also used customer testimonials to make false claims. These apparently happy and satisfied customers are frequently seen on television commercials touting their good lives since starting on this supplement.

Balance of Nature also makes claims about third-party testing, but provides no proof of their claims. The Balance of Nature research page mentioned two published Russian studies, though neither were in legitimate medical journals. Balance of Nature was rated C minus by the Better Business Bureau because of hundreds of complaints filed against their business and the government actions against the business.

For those who like to hear from media personalities about health care subjects, Rudy Giuliani, also known in the past as “America’s Mayor”, claims on X (formerly Twitter), “When I need energy, I use Balance of Nature, Fruits and Veggies.”

Of course, eating real fruits and vegetables is better for us and far less expensive.

Dr. Carl Bartecchi
Dr. Carl Bartecchi

Dr. Carl E. Bartecchi, MD, is a Pueblo physician and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Dr. Carl Bartecchi: Scams for everyone