Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Closing the book (Kevin Trudeau)

New York Daily News -

Closing the book

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005

ALBANY - The state Consumer Protection Board has run into a First Amendment claim that's preventing it from warning the public about snake-oil salesman Kevin Trudeau, author of "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About."

This month, the board labeled Trudeau's best-selling book a "fraud" and cited misleading claims in his dust-jacket blurbs and infomercials. Officials said they would ask cable companies and broadcasters to stop airing his ads. Trudeau filed suit in federal court, calling the board "a renegade government agency" that was trying to squash "a nationally best-selling book that criticizes the government." A judge temporarily ordered the agency to stop its publicity campaign.

Luckily, the Daily News can still exercise its First Amendment rights. So here's what the Consumer Protection Board was trying to tell you before Trudeau's lawyers shut it down:

* Trudeau has settled 10 fraud cases brought by the Federal Trade Commission, most recently in 2004, when he paid $2 million and agreed to stop selling "coral calcium" as a cancer cure, according to the consumer board. He also pleaded guilty to larceny and credit-card fraud in the early 1990s, the the board said.

* The dust jacket features a quote from a doctor and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who died three years before the book came out, the board noted.

* In infomercials about the book, Trudeau says it includes a "technique" to quit smoking, according to the consumer board. But readers who want details are instructed to subscribe to Trudeau's Web site - which costs $9.95 per month.

* Also in the infomercial, ex-televangelist Tammy Faye Messner speaks disparagingly of chemotherapy when, in fact, she is using chemo to treat her own cancer, according to the consumer board.

"From cover to cover, this book is a fraud," Board Chairwoman Teresa Santiago said in a press release Aug. 5, before the court issued its order.

A lawyer for Trudeau, Daniel Hurtado of Jenner & Block in Chicago, calls the press release "misleading." But he said the lawsuit focuses on the board's effort to get the infomercial off the air. Although the board has no authority to penalize broadcasters, Hurtado contended that the board's request would be "coercive" and violate Trudeau's constitutional right to express his opinions.

"These are what Trudeau believes to be cures," Hurtado said. "The book can say the moon is made out of cheese, and that's fine under the First Amendment."

Whether or not state officials crossed a legal line in this case, it's important for watchdogs outside of government to expose this book for what it is - a compendium of quackery and conspiracy theories, designed mainly to enrich its author at the expense of gullible readers, some of whom presumably are desperately ill.

Although the dust jacket promises "natural cures for more than 50 specific diseases," the book delivers little more than a laundry list of treatments and lifestyle changes that it asserts can "cure every disease" and even reverse the aging process. They range from the obvious (stop smoking, exercise, get plenty of sleep), to the mundane (visit a chiropractor, practice tai chi), to the kooky (undergo "energetic rebalancing," wear white clothing, never use the microwave).

Yet Trudeau claims to have sold 3 million copies at $29.95 a pop, putting him on top of best-seller lists. Apparently the reading public has a taste for cheese.

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