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).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Against odds, Kevin Trudeau still king of late-night infomercial pitchmen

Buyers of his book are living proof of the old saying - Mundus vult decipi - "The world wants to be deceived." He is a convicted criminal whose actions confirm that his mind is unchanged in its determination to boldly do anything to make more money. It's incredible that people would aid him in his crime by buying this book of lies. Read and weep:

Against odds, Kevin Trudeau still king of late-night infomercial pitchmen
Neither jail nor fines nor discredited products can stop earnest-faced salesman
Friday, September 09, 2005

By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the land of late-night infomercial pitchmen, full of colorful hucksters and muscle-bound workout gurus, Kevin Trudeau is, against odds, still the king.

Perhaps you'd thought his long-running career as the earnest-faced salesman for memory products and homeopathic cancer remedies had finally ended last autumn, when the Federal Trade Commission banned Trudeau from peddling his cure-all products on television, an unprecedented legal restriction.

Maybe you'd thought he was finished in June 2003, when the FTC took him to court, trying to prevent his Shop America firm from selling the "coral calcium" supplement, which supposedly was harvested from the coral reefs of Okinawa and could cure up to 200 human maladies. He paid $2 million to settle the suit, but he admitted no wrongdoing.

Or maybe you'd thought Trudeau wouldn't even be able to shed his own criminal past, including a credit card fraud conviction for which he spent two years in jail in the early 1990s.

But here he is, back again somehow, appearing on televisions all over Pittsburgh and across the country, despite the FTC restrictions. His book, "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You To Know About," has hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in the hardcover advice category, a month after its re-release. (It was first released in August 2004, then again in June.) On, the online bookstore, only 11 books sell better.

He's achieved the ranking even though few news outlets or magazines have reviewed the book -- the marketing steam behind the popularity seems to be entirely of Trudeau's creation, a novelty in the hypercompetitive publishing business. He's sold nearly 4 million copies, besting such titles as Joel Osteen's "Your Best Life Now" and Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life."

There's only one explanation for the success, he said. "People who buy the book categorically, overwhelmingly love the book." Then, he said, they pass the good word onto friends and family.

TV infomercials sell all sorts of products -- weight-loss remedies, Bowflex and Total Gym workout machines, steak knives, fishing lures, sex drive pills, Magic Bullet blenders, gizmos that exercise your abdominal muscles.

It's a $100 billion-a-year industry with new entrants every week. And while the infomercials very often exaggerate the effectiveness of the products they sell, few of the ads can match the fantastic claims made by Trudeau -- that he personally knows of natural, herbal cures for herpes, obesity, depression, fibromyalgia cancer.

"If your body pH is alkaline, you cannot get cancer," he says on the latest infomercial. That claim is sandwiched between other assertions: He says heartburn is caused by too little acid in your stomach, for example, and adds that the Asian Diabetes Association promotes an herbal supplement that cures diabetes.

The government and the doctors cover up these natural remedies, he says, to protect the pharmaceutical industry, which wants to keep people sick so it can sell more medicine.

The government and the doctors, naturally, dispute that, and to them, the infomercial's claims are mystifying, if not dangerous. Trudeau's continued ability to persuade Americans to send him money and buy his products, however, is less mysterious.

"Sincerity is a powerful sales tool," said Stephen Barrett, the former Allentown psychiatrist who now operates a Web site called "quackwatch," which seeks to combat Trudeau and other purveyors of "health-related frauds, myths, fads and fallacies."

"He's nice-looking. He speaks with sincerity and enthusiasm."

But sincerity is not the same as honesty, and the FTC, when it tried to kick Trudeau, 42, off the air last September, said, "This ban is meant to shut down an infomercial empire that has misled American consumers for years."

Trudeau has been able to remain on the air because he's pitching a book, not specific medicinal products. Prohibiting an author from talking and marketing his work brings up all sorts of First Amendment and censorship issues that the FTC left alone.

Even so, Heather Hippsley, an assistant director with the FTC's advertising practices division, said the commission continued to monitor Trudeau's infomercials, book and Web site to make sure he's not violating the ban.

"Mr. Trudeau has been in front of the FTC twice, with numerous products," said Hippsley.

"We felt that the ban was appropriate as a remedy."

Trudeau has no illusions about his standing in the medical community. He has no medical training, he's been barred from doing business in Australia, and state attorneys general across the county have investigated Trudeau and his media group, Alliance Publishing Group Inc.

"I'm called a fraud, a charlatan," he said. If he's the fraud, and drug companies are the upstanding citizens, then why is drug giant Merck & Co. the one on the hook for $253 million, following a civil trial surrounding the death of a man taking Vioxx, the painkilling arthritis drug? "They're the ones who murdered 150,000 people, not me," he said, overestimating the deaths, but illustrating his point nevertheless.

And on this point, says Barrett, the "quackwatch" psychiatrist, Trudeau is striking gold.

"There are a lot of people who don't trust the government" and the medical community. "Trudeau has found a way to harvest the public distrust. ... He had managed to find a way to commercialize paranoia."

In his own words, Trudeau has fashioned himself as "an insider who's blowing the whistle," in the mold of a Jeffrey Wigand, who famously tattled on the tobacco industry on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Although -- or perhaps because -- his book is a best seller, Trudeau is still being targeted by state and federal regulators. In New York, for example, the state consumer protection board had been sending letters to television stations, asking them to not broadcast Trudeau's infomercial, or to at least accompany the infomercial with a disclaimer that says, "This book does not contain any cures, remedies or treatments for specific diseases."

But a federal judge told the board this month to stop sending out the letters, after Trudeau filed suit, saying the letters were tantamount to censorship. Trudeau's attorney, David Bradford, said, "Trudeau and Alliance Publishing Group believe that the consumer protection [board's] conduct has caused tens of millions of dollars of damages."



FTC Action against Kevin Trudeau

Be Wary of Coral Calcium and Robert Barefoot

Convicted US felon's 'Cures' tops book charts - Yahoo! News

Coral Calcium - the Truth about the scammers

Kevin Trudeau - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Books What Kevin Trudeau doesn't want you to know

Quackwatch: An Interview with Dr. Stephen Barrett concerning the DRTV Industry, FTC, Dr. Lorraine Day, Kevin Trudeau, the Electronic Retailing Association, and Misleading Health-Related Infomercials.

Closing the book (on Kevin Trudeau)

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation