Commercials warrant caution

An “infomercial” being broadcast on at least two local stations has drawn criticism from physicians.

The program, featuring former quiz show and ABC News host Hugh Downs, is being carried on KOLO and KTVN and sells a book, World’s Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets. Downs interviews an Arthur P. Johnson, who talks about the medical community suppressing cures that the book reveals and about how the presses were stopped to squeeze in more secrets from various contributors. Any expertise or credentials Johnson has are not reported.

Physicans Stephen Barrett and Timothy Hill made a study of the book and reported that two of the chapters deal with material so secret that their discoverers received Nobel prizes for their findings, findings which doctors use routinely every day. Of the 900 articles in the book, they report, “Some contain valid medical advice by reputable experts, but many are brief and/or discuss only one or two aspects of complex medical problems. Many others seem to have little to do with medicine (e.g. frozen bananas as a healthy treat) or are obvious (‘keep skin clean by washing with gentle soap and water’). Still others express claims that are unproven, vague and/or unscientific (e.g. ‘Studies suggest that homeopathic remedies may be effective in the treatment of hay fever, arthritis and diarrhea.'). … There is no medical information in the book that cannot be found, in a more complete and correct form, in standard medical texts and high-quality Web sites.”

Two commercials running locally are also under fire from consumers or federal authorities. One is the familiar spot showing a happy fellow smiling like a loon over the “natural male enhancement” he experienced by using a product called Enzyte. After a joint investigation of the Food and Drug Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and Postal Service, manufacturer Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals was indicted in September 2006 for conspiracy, money laundering, and mail, wire and bank fraud. Some state attorneys general have also taken action. In September 2004, the Center for Science in the Public Interest called on the Federal Trade Commission to force the TV commercials off the air on grounds that research does not support their claims, but they continue running. Information on a consumer class action lawsuit can be found at

Then there is Lens Doctor, also known as Lens Rx. Commercials running in Reno claim that scratches can be removed from eyeglasses by “space-age clear polymer that fills microscopic scratches and imperfections on the surface of the lens.” So far there are no known official actions against Lens Doctor, but online customer testimonials are not encouraging. “The bristles came off in the treatment solution and dried on the lenses,” said one. Another warns that the product should be tried first on an old pair of glasses. Several postings said when the substance is applied to glasses, “the lens was too blurry to see (safely) through.”