Respectful Insolence

Ron Paul: Quackery enabler, part II

While I’ve let myself get sucked into commenting on health care politics (well, not exactly “sucked in”; I was pissed off enough at the “Obama = Hitler” analogies that I enjoyed skewering some of the idiots making them), there’s another issue that’s popped up that I can’t resist commenting on in my usual inimitable fashion. It comes from, of all places, this blog’s favorite den of quackery propaganda, NaturalNews.com and from, of all places, one of our favorite wingnut politicians, a man who’s been a tireless promoter of quackery in Congress for many years now.

That’s right, Ron Paul’s back, baby, and Mike Adams’ minions love him to death.

I’ve written about Ron Paul before, of course, back before the primary season for the 2008 election really got going. This was before a single vote was cast or single delegate awarded, and, back at that time, thanks to his Internet fundraising juggernaught, Ron Paul actually looked like a bona fide contender for the Republican nomination for President. I noted at the time that, while numerous other bloggers had expressed concern about Ron Paul’s–shall we say?–unusual beliefs, none of them realized just how much of a promoter of pseudoscience he was, how vigorously he promotes quackery. Indeed, you could look at Ron Paul as being the Republican counterpart of Senator Tom Harkin, only without the same level of clout and without the same level of cleverness that allows Harkin to cloak his promotion of pseudoscience as “health promotion.” Instead, Ron Paul is once again enthusiastically trying to gut consumer health protections in the name of “health freedom.” If you think the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) was an atrocity you ain’t seen nothin’ yet; that is, if Ron Paul ever gets his way:

In recent years, numerous companies have been targeted, raided, and even shut down by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making health claims about the products they sell. These federal agencies operate outside the realm of constitutional legitimacy and thus have pejoratively muzzled free speech concerning natural health products and their health benefits for decades. In an effort to restore constitutional freedom of speech, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas has introduced three bills which would help dismantle the web of corruption that censors legitimate health claims and truthful information about foods, herbs, and supplements that prevent, combat, or otherwise remediate disease.

Some readers may remember back in mid-2008 when the FTC performed a witch hunt against 130 companies and one non-profit religious group who made claims about their products’ effectiveness in treating cancer. The FTC ordered that these entities remove all claims and testimonials and issue a statement to all their customers that drugs and radiation are the only useful and proven treatments for battling cancer and that none of the products or ingredients sold by these companies were helpful in preventing or treating illness.

No, that’s not what happened. What happened was that the FDA finally grew a pair and did what it was designed to do and brought the hammer down on a bunch of cancer quacks. It was a long overdue action taken against the manufacturers of bogus cancer cures, 125 products made by the 23 companies, including the pure quackery that it the black salve. All of that is just a warmup for Mike Adams’ minion to get to the point:

As lunatic as all of this sounds, this type of behavior has become normal operating procedure at the FDA and FTC whose unrestrained power continues to escalate into increasingly tyrannical control over free speech. As such, Rep. Paul’s three bills aim to end the illegitimate censorship of free speech and restore constitutional freedom of speech in natural health. Below are their summaries and information about how to support them.

Ah, yes. Conflating false advertising claims with “free speech.” Where have we seen this before? Oh, yes! In the “health freedom” movement. So what are the two bills? Here’s bill #1:

HR 3394, The Health Information Protection Act, inhibits the FTC from acting against any entity for communicating the health benefits of its products unless the FTC presents “clear and convincing” evidence that those statements are false. In concordance with the Fifth Amendment, the burden of proof concerning an accusation of a false claim is to fall upon the accuser (FTC) to determine, with legitimate evidence, that a claim is false before demanding its removal. As it stands, the FTC has reversed the Fifth Amendment by preemptively and arbitrarily restraining communication without any evidence or reason while demanding that the accused party prove its claim to be true. HR 3394 will reinforce the already lawful Fifth Amendment that establishes the burden of proof upon the FTC to present a legitimate case before impeding any lawful communication. It will restore the freedom to communicate nutrient-disease health claims freely.

A better name for this bill would be the Quack Lie Protection Act, because that’s exactly what it’s designed to do. Its real purpose is to defang the FDA and FTC to the point where they can do virtually nothing about misleading advertisements and false claims. Of course, the problem with this line of attack is that fraud and false advertising are not considered protected speech. Commercial speech is protected speech only when it is not false and therefore a vehicle for committing commercial fraud; regulation of commercial speech is well-established, if evolving, law. Of course, free speech has very little to do with the motivation behind this bill. In reality, supplement manufacturers and various other alt-med mavens want the freedom to make any claims they want, regardless of evidence. It would be like the DSHEA on steroids (which can be found in some supplements, by the way).

Next up is this bill:

Similarly to HR 3394, HR 3395, The Health Freedom Act, will remove the unconstitutional FDA power of “prior restraint” over all nutrient-disease relationship claims. In other words, free speech health claims will no longer be universally banned but will be permitted. The burden of proof will properly and lawfully fall upon the FDA to establish “clear and convincing” evidence against a claim, after it has been made, if it believes a claim is false. The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed to protect the free speech of the people from the federal government imposing “prior restraint” on speech, the very thing the FDA has instated as the foundation for its operating procedure. This bill will preserve the proper and lawful prosecution of those who make false claims, but it will require the government and its agencies, particularly the FDA, to establish legitimate evidence against a claim that it believes to be false prior to taking any action against any person or entity rather, effectively restoring the First Amendment supremacy over the FDA.

This sounds a lot like a previous bill that Ron Paul introduced about two years ago, namely the Health Freedom Protection Act, which tried to do more or less the same thing. What you need to understand is that what someone like Ron Paul means by “health freedom” is in reality “freedom for quacks to sell their wares with as little interference as possible by the government.” As for HR 3395, here are the key provisions:

The Federal Government may not take any action to prevent use of a claim describing any nutrient in a food or dietary supplement (as such terms are defined in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321)) as mitigating, treating, or preventing any disease, disease symptom, or health-related condition, unless in a final order of a Federal court following a trial on the merits finds clear and convincing evidence based on qualified expert opinion and published peer-reviewed scientific research that–

(1) the claim is false and misleading in any material respect; and
(2) there is no less speech restrictive alternative to claim suppression, such as use of disclaimers or qualifications, that can render the claim non-misleading.

Here’s the other main provision:

SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF DRUG.

(a) In General- Subparagraph (1) of section 201(g) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321(g)) is amended by striking the second and third sentences and inserting the following: ‘A food or dietary supplement for which a claim is made in accordance with section 403(r)(1)(B) is not a drug solely because of such claim.’.

(b) Rules- All rules of the Food and Drug Administration in existence on the date of the enactment of this Act prohibiting nutrient-disease relationship claims are revoked.

Remember the Quack Miranda Warning? It’s the “warning” found on many quack sites that says something along the lines that the product being hawked is “not designed to diagnose or treat and disease or illness.” Basically, Quack Miranda Warnings are designed to keep claims about supplements in line with the DSHEA, which in essence allows manufacturers to make virtually any claim about a supplement, as long as it’s not too specific, you know, stuff like “boosts the immune system.” Ron Paul’s amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act would in essence take away the need even for the Quack Miranda Warning. It would, in essence, give sellers of supplements and dubious remedies the “freedom” to make any health claims they want for as long as they want until actually found guilty of false advertising in a court of law. It would also allow supplement manufacturers to avoid having their products reclassified as drugs if they made health claims for them, while wiping away all prior law prohibiting treatment claims for supplements. Goodbye Quack Miranda, hello massive profits! Even better for supplement manufacturers, this law would so hobble the FDA and FTC that they would only rarely be able to prosecute supplement sellers, and only then those who make the most egregiously false claims.

There’s only one thing that puzzles me here. Senator Harkin understood that President Obama so badly wants to pass a health care reform bill this year that he can get virtually anything he wants inserted into the bill. Of course, Harkin has the advantage of being a Democrat and therefore someone President Obama needs. Ron Paul is implacably opposed to Obama’s agenda. He couldn’t possibly be seen as in any way allying himself with the President, and any amendment he offered to the health care reform bill winding its way through the House would likely be voted down by the Democratic majority.

Still, currently powerless or not, Ron Paul is a powerful reminder that woo is bipartisan. Pseudoscience and quackery know no political boundaries. On the left, we have Tom Harkin, among others, promoting the acceptance of “alternative” medicine and campaigning for the government to fund it. On the right, we have people like Ron Paul and Dan Burton, raging against “forced vaccination” and promoting “health freedom” bills that eviscerate any agency that might protect consumers from the depredations of the supplement manufacturers. Who will stand up for science-based medicine in Congress?

I fear that the answer is, “No one.”

Comments

  1. #1 Calli Arcale
    August 11, 2009

    He’s for health freedom.

    Just not our health freedom. It’s the corporations he’s protecting, not the consumers.

    The right to free speech does not include the right to defraud your customers, and it’s disgusting to see “health freedom” types claiming the mantle of free speech like this. It’s like a bank robber wanting to bar banks from using exploding dye packs and cameras, because those intrude on his privacy.

  2. #2 Anthro
    August 11, 2009

    I think we all have to realize that this is the inevitable corollary to freedom of religion as interpreted in this country. That and the lack of decent basic science education, to say nothing of “balance” from the media allowing all manner of quacks and wumeisters to spew their foolishness all over the airwaves and print media, and you have an out-of-control situation that I think is now too far gone to reign in. Too many otherwise well-educated people are “into” CAM and are represented more by Weill, Chopra, Harkin and Paul than by any scientist.

    I had one friend left who wasn’t into some level of wu and now she’s taking glucosamine for her knee (she’s a long time runner) and thinks it’s “helping”. She doesn’t want to “take drugs” if this will do the trick instead and she thinks there’s “some evidence” to support it.

    I despair.

  3. #3 Todd W.
    August 11, 2009

    Great. Yet another attempt to put drug regulation back to 1906.

  4. #4 Denice Walter
    August 11, 2009

    Paul is one of the triumvirate of low-impact presidential candidates (with Kucinich and Nader)who have appeared frequently on Null’s radio woo-ateria, plugging away at this for years.Adams is new to the fray but encourages his followers to escape the ever-expanding tentacles of US government interference and reside, as he does, in health freedom-friendly Ecuador, where no one will force you to vaccinate your child or pry away your 1000 mg. vitamin C capsules from your “cold,dead fingers”.But seriously, haven’t we already been through this- about 100 years ago,Collier’s magazine exposed patent medecines in a series of articles that led to government regulation and the FDA?

  5. #5 John
    August 11, 2009

    The Stephen Barrett piece on DSHEA is somewhat out of date. It doesn’t take into account recent improvements concerning supplement regulation. For a more accurate, up to date account try this article from the Council For Responsible Nutrition.

  6. #6 Mike Olson
    August 11, 2009

    I hope someone can answer my question as I’m just sort of skimming today…my apologies if this misses some point already addressed. Generally speaking, what do you folks consider to be “woo?” I ask because I tend to think of folks who believe in direct Divine intervention, magnetic fields, frequencies, all as pitching “woo.” On the otherhand, if someone is able to endure greater pain due to hypnosis, or learns to relax more through meditation, of finds something like yoga, helpful, I don’t see that as “woo.” To be frank, if praying for strength helps someone to feel better, I don’t see a problem with that(their faith made them well, not God creating a miracle). My question is, where do you draw the line? Hypnosis, meditation and yoga were all considered fringe means of stress reduction at one time, I believe all have been shown to help in lowering blood pressure and enduring pain. Thanks for your time, on such a basic question.

  7. #7 Hanspeter
    August 11, 2009

    @Mike Olson: hypnosis and yoga don’t cure any disease. They might make the person more comfortable during the fighting part of the cure.

    “Praying for strength” (or some other woo) might make someone feel well, but it did not make them well. And I think claiming the 2nd part of that sentence as true is what makes something woo.

  8. #8 mad the swine
    August 11, 2009

    “Generally speaking, what do you folks consider to be “woo?””

    For my part, a set of beliefs and practices that (a) make demonstrably false claims, (b) would violate the laws of physics if they functioned, and/or (c) appeal to higher spiritual power(s), would fall under the definition of ‘woo’. If it has a demonstrable effect on the patient, it’s not woo. If the only benefit to the patient is from the placebo effect (ie, faith healing) it’s woo.

    So meditation, if presented as a means of stress reduction, biofeedback, lowering blood pressure, etc. isn’t necessarily woo, even if the medical consensus is inconclusive. Meditation as a means of energy healing, getting in touch with higher powers, curing cancer, yada yada? Pure undiluted woo.

  9. #9 Hanspeter
    August 11, 2009

    Adding to my comment, what mad the swine said in (a-c), which is much clearer than what I wrote.

  10. #10 Mike Olson
    August 11, 2009

    Thank you for your feedback. I truly appreciate it. To be honest it is pretty much what I would consider to be “woo,” as well, but a little more stringently defined then the manner in which I was presenting my thoughts on the matter. Thanks again.

  11. #11 yoyo
    August 11, 2009

    The Federal Government may not take any action to prevent use of a claim describing any nutrient in a food or dietary supplement (as such terms are defined in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321)) as mitigating, treating, or preventing any disease, disease symptom, or health-related condition, unless in a final order of a Federal court following a trial on the merits finds clear and convincing evidence based on qualified expert opinion and published peer-reviewed scientific research that–

    I love this point, irony much? The only time these quack enablers support proper clinical trials are when they are demanding that someone else pay and perform them before they are allowed to criticise their crappy potentially lethal products. Makes me want to give them a coffee enema (for my own good naturally LOL)

  12. #12 Jim Lippard
    August 12, 2009

    From a legal perspective, shouldn’t the First Amendment take priority over any legislation and regulation? And shouldn’t the burden of proof for any restriction of speech fall on the government’s side?

    I agree that fraudulent claims should be prosecuted, and Paul’s bill seems to create some unwarranted procedural obstacles to that, but to the extent the bill endorses the First Amendment, putting the burden of proof on restriction, and requiring that the least restrictive means that’s effective be the remedy for cases of harm, that’s right in line with constitutional law.

  13. #13 CanadianChick
    August 12, 2009

    Anthro, in defense of your friend, books like “The Arthritis Cure” (or whatever it was called) did present what appeared to be legitimate, peer-reviewed scientific evidence that glucosamine assisted with disease management in osteoarthritis.

    I think it was only relatively recently that a meta-analysis of the data showed that the evidence really wasn’t there, especially where reduction or management of pain was concerned. There MIGHT be some long-term benefit in the form of disease modification, but the evidence was minimal at best.

    However, that was pretty recent…

  14. #14 Dr. P
    August 12, 2009

    The Federal Government may not take any action to prevent use of a claim describing any nutrient in a food or dietary supplement (as such terms are defined in section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 321)) as mitigating, treating, or preventing any disease, disease symptom, or health-related condition, unless in a final order of a Federal court following a trial on the merits finds clear and convincing evidence based on qualified expert opinion and published peer-reviewed scientific research that–

    Why is the burden of proof on the federal government when the supplement company is making a specific claim of efficacy?So now we as taxpayers will pay for every medical claim to be verified even though the company may not have supplied substantive evidence of their own?Sounds like Ron Paul doesn’t care about shifting the expense of proof on taxpayers when it serves as a convenient mechanism to undercut federal powers to enforce laws protecting consumers;more than a little hypocritical on his part.The companies should have done their homework before bringing it to market without taxpayers having to worry about the expense of a trial on every claim made.

  15. #15 Dr. P
    August 12, 2009

    From a legal perspective, shouldn’t the First Amendment take priority over any legislation and regulation?

    Broadly speaking, I would be inclined to agree with you but I don’t think the founding fathers had a for profit corporation in mind when creating the article of first amendment.When a company that will be profiting from the sale of said supplement is marketing it with a definite health claim why would it be unreasonable to expect a certain amount of research to support such claims? I know that the tendency over the last several years has been to attempt to define corporate entities as individuals with individuals rights but I don’t think this applies when you have a question of public safety, particularly if the consideration of a corporation in this light would interfere with the federal government in its enforcement of health regulations.

  16. #16 John
    August 12, 2009

    To CanadianChick:
    It’s true that studies using Glucosamine HCL, like the NCCAM study have found it to be no better than placebo.

    However most glucosamine supplements contain the sulfate form. Many studies using glucosamine sulfate, like the GUIDE study have shown it to have clear benefit for treatment of joint pain.

    OsteoArthritis Research Society International recommends Glucosamine Sulfate as a useful treatment for arthritis.

  17. #17 Ind.Mind
    August 12, 2009

    First of all, at this juncture in history, Americans would do well to fundamentally re-examine what a Fed agency purports to do, vs. what it actually does, in real life.

    The above blogger “Orac” is EXTREMELY naive as to what FDA, REALLY is. IT is a corporatist-fascist gvt-BigPharma collusion, to make itself immune from liabilities. The delusion that the FDA is here to ensure food and drug safety is akin to belief in Santa Claus. FDA, the very agency tasked to conduct “impartial” trials are FUNDED by the very BigPharma that they’re suppose to adjudicate. WTF?

    Vioxx ring a bell?

    Along with HR.3200, the 1017 page monstrosity that passes itself off as “healthcare,” is NOTHING MORE THAN the BigPharma version of the AIG, and GoldmanSachs bailouts. Medical insurance, like their banking counterparts, currently are BANKRUPT. According to current laws, IF your parents, or kids are mandated untested vaccines, and DIE, the gvt and BigPharma that manufactured it cannot be held liable.

    According to HR3200,the “Advisory Committee” that determines what meds, or services a citizen may or may not receive is to be headed by the Surgeon General, 8 gvt-appointees, and 18 NON-GVT appointees, as in BigPharma insiders. TWO to One, that’s how much BigPharma insiders outnumber gvt workers.

    Are you all illiterate or something? You do not see BigPharma-BigGvt corporatist-fascist collusion in its fundamental structure?

    The current batch of typical invectives thrown by lemmings drinking BOTH-parties’ Kool-Aid, more often than not, haven’t got a CLUE what is clearly written in the 1017 page bill. Simply because, like the degenerate and lazy CONgress who has a habit of voting FOR bills, without ever reading it, the sheeple are equally indolent and don’t bother even reading it. Yet, you’re all experts on the nature of the bill.

    Frankly, to that extent, you do deserve the gvt you get; when you’re bunch of lazy lemmings who don’t check, don’t read, nor verify claims, what do you expect? Case in point, John Conyers: the senile moron thinks it’s “HA HA funny,” that We the Citizenry, find the prospect of CONgress voting for bills that they have no clue WTF is it, as APPALLING. So, in their Twilight ZOne, we’re the weird ones if we actually know what is going on? Delusions know no bounds.

    If they’re gonna mandate national “HealthScare,” perhaps we should MANDATE psych. tests for ANYONE attempting to run for CONgress. Hell, that may stand to be a slightly higher std. of eligibility than current criminal “justice” sys, which apparently, is irrelevant, in fact it seems almost that one cannot be in govt, unless you have a criminal indictment in your records, or knack for sexual improprieties like Spitzer, or Sanford. Hey it’s Bi-Partisan! Easier to blackmail for the Oligarchs who fund their campaign, one may ponder. Google or SmokingGun.com their records. Their arrest or indictment files should not be too hard to find.

    Better yet, for all the socialist proto-fascist lemmings who want gvt to have the single largest database containing the most intimate personal info, institute a de facto national ID in order to get this “national healthcare” rolling, IF a 5th grader can hack into your CreditCard co’s records and steal your account as easy as one breathes, what makes you think gvt healthcare centralized data will be immune? Also, you’re DELUDING yourselves, if you do not think DNA discrimination isn’t coming. Just watch. They also said SocSec# would never be used as an ID. It’s “voluntary” except you cannot work, open a bank account or driver’s license, without it. You know, “voluntary” like that.

    Furthermore, one may want to inquire a simple question: if CONgress is SO confident in gvt ability to provide healthcare for all, why don’t they offer us the same healthcare they get?

    When’s the last time you saw YOUR EMPLOYEES, the civil servants, get better, or afford better healthcare coverage than their bosses, us the Citizenry? Worse, where in America do you see employees dictate insurance coverage terms to their bosses?

    Here’s an interesting FACT: last time I checked, ALL CONgressmen/women are eligible to receive a lifetime of FULL health coverage that only costs $550/yr, once in tenure for a few terms. So why don’t they offer that program to US?

    Why? Because HR32000 is WRITTEN FOR, and BY BigPharma, while these lying scums feign indignance and parade on TV as if they’re “fighting” the very BigPharma that they’re on the payroll of. The NERVE and DECEPTION NEVER STOP with these lunatics.

    As a strict Constitutionalist, I am firmly against FED gvt getting involved in ANYTHING that is NOT enumerated in the Constitution. However, if they’re so intent on providing national “healthcare,” why the hell don’t they just increase Medicare/Medicaid, in which they systematically defunded? Well, okay, so frankly they never had any money in it; like Social Security “lockbox” it’s just an accounting ledger with an arbitrary IOU written on it.

    All these deceptions will come out WHEN and IF the as Federal as FedEx, FEDERAL Reserve is audited with HR1207/S604.

    These goons have NO concern for OUR well being.

    It’s high time Americans FINALLY wake up to the fact that there is NO Left vs. Right. There’s only Oligarchs and their sycophantic minions, vs. US, We the People, the FREE HUMANITY.

    There are REAL terrorists in the world. And they’re not in Middle East: MOST ECONOMIC Terrorists reside right here in our own backyards. It’s time to VOTE ALL THE BUMS OUT.

    Aside from Ron Paul, and while politically disparate, Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, there are NO ONE else in CONgress that serves the People’s interests. The rest are only concerned with themselves and their puppet masters.

    These hypocritical, pro-environment “Green” idiots have the nerve to buy FOUR GulfStream private jets to the tune of $65 MILLLION EACH?? It’s not enough that these bastards STOLE 24 TRILLION DOLLARS in less than 7months, when the rest of the nation is being laid off, foreclosed on, and some living in Depression-Era style “Tent Cities?” They all belong in GitMo.

    And this blogger is a just another delusional sycophant who thinks he’s part of the ruling class. He’s a scribe, that’s his sole functions, to be a mouthpiece. Wouldn’t surprise me if he/she turns out being a paid hack, a shill for BigPharma, or a propagandist for gvt. Then again, could simply be one in six billion of mis-informed, un-informed, ill-informed internet yapper, who is utterly convinced they’re right, and we must listen to their diatribe.

    I implore anyone who bothers to read my rather verbose rebuttal to READ the bill for yourselves.

    HR3200 IS about RATIONING, it’s all about EUGENICS. Google Dr.Ezekiel Immanuel, Rahm’s degenerate brother who WILL BE SITTING ON THAT “Advisory Committee,” who apparently thinks American Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath a little too seriously: TRANSLATION? If you’re old, dying or don’t have too many years left, he WILL advise the gvt that YOU and/or your family member DESERVES TO DIE.

    Goto http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-3200 and READ HR.3200 for yourself. There are about three bills going around that’s being considered, HR3200 is their primary contender.

    HARDCORE NAZI Eugenicist CRIMINALS have HIJACKED OUR Republic.

    Americans BEWARE.

  18. #18 Mark P
    August 12, 2009

    “From a legal perspective, shouldn’t the First Amendment take priority over any legislation and regulation?”

    Let’s follow this logic through.

    I advertise a “new generation” television. You buy it. It turns out to be a perfectly ordinary television and you have been stiffed. I assert my right to use “new generation” any way I want. Now with the Ron Paul logic YOU have to prove that “new generation” is false. Actually worse, you have to persuade the government to act on your behalf.

    I would have thought it a basic fundamental of civilised society that people are not permitted to lie. Medical claims should be no exception, just because they are hard to prove.

  19. #19 Go Ron Paul
    August 12, 2009

    Do you need me to call you a WAAAAAAMBULANCE, Orac? Ron Paul is one of the few legitimate politicians today. He knows that the government should stay the f*ck out of our lives…

  20. #20 Orac
    August 12, 2009

    And this blogger is a just another delusional sycophant who thinks he’s part of the ruling class. He’s a scribe, that’s his sole functions, to be a mouthpiece. Wouldn’t surprise me if he/she turns out being a paid hack, a shill for BigPharma, or a propagandist for gvt.

    I love it when the cranks pull the pharma shill gambit So amusing.

    As for “Ind.Mind’s” nonsense about euthanasia, I addressed that:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/08/the_latest_obama_hitler_shenanigans_too.php

    In about 10 minutes, today’s post also addresses this issue in a different way.

  21. #21 Dangerous Bacon
    August 12, 2009

    Yeah, who wants the big bad goverment protecting us from being manipulated by the tiny helpless multibillion dollar supplement industry?

    By the way, the “Health Freedom Alliance” is beating the drums for the Ron Paul deregulation proposals:

    http://blogs.healthfreedomalliance.org/blog/2009/08/11/ron-paul-introduces-three-new-bills-designed-to-restore-free-speech-to-health

    A question here – what is the Health Freedom Alliance? Their “about” section reveals nothing about who runs and funds it. Think it might be one or more of the supplement companies that are linked to in the site’s “articles”?*

    *for example, readers wanting to know about one of the latest cures for all diseases, the Miracle Mineral Supplement, are referred to the MMS seller’s website.

  22. #22 Orac
    August 12, 2009

    I would have thought it a basic fundamental of civilised society that people are not permitted to lie.

    No, it is a basic fundamental that people are not allowed to defraud others. They can lie all they want; that’s protected First Amendment speech. However, when they lie about a product in order to sell it, that’s fraud, and the public should be protected from it.

  23. #23 Scott
    August 12, 2009

    From a legal perspective, shouldn’t the First Amendment take priority over any legislation and regulation? And shouldn’t the burden of proof for any restriction of speech fall on the government’s side?

    I agree that fraudulent claims should be prosecuted, and Paul’s bill seems to create some unwarranted procedural obstacles to that, but to the extent the bill endorses the First Amendment, putting the burden of proof on restriction, and requiring that the least restrictive means that’s effective be the remedy for cases of harm, that’s right in line with constitutional law.

    There is indeed a certain logic to it. But there’s one crucial point which makes medical claims fundamentally different from Mark P’s example @18. And that’s the fact that the cost and burden of obtaining evidence is quite large.

    With a “new generation” TV, it’s easy for a customer to tell they were scammed, complain, and the relevant government agencies investigate. With bogus (word chosen quite deliberately) treatments, the victim can’t tell. And having the government conduct rigorous RCTs on all treatments on the market would be grossly impractical – imagine the taxes needed to fund THAT!

    So placing the burden of proof on the government means that there is an effectively insurmountable obstacle to actually determining which treatments are fraudulent, and hence fraud could be perpetrated in complete safety.

    In other words, the choices are to place the burden of proof on the entity making the claim, or to abandon all hope of protecting the public from fraudulent claims. That’s a more than adequate justification to outweigh the free speech argument.

    There’s also the matter of fairness – I shouldn’t be able to offload the cost of determining whether my claims are true to the government if I’m the the one profiting from them.

  24. #24 rrt
    August 12, 2009

    You nailed it, Scott. But I would add there is a simpler problem facing the “natural” sellers: Ethics. It is unethical to market their products as they do. Paul is claiming here that anyone should have the right to market and sell a product claiming it does X when they do not know it does X. That’s fundamentally unethical. Citing “different ways of knowing” how it does X is no excuse given the well-established supremacy (compared to the alternatives) of the scientific way of knowing. In other words, they either know better, or they should–and when they should, I think their ignorance very often stems from an unwillingness to perform due diligence.

  25. #25 Undertoad
    August 12, 2009

    Most libertarians believe that the only legitimate cause for government is protection against force and fraud. I guess Dr. Paul doesn’t care much about the latter.

  26. #26 red rabbit
    August 12, 2009

    I wonder who’s sending in the clowns?

    Orac the pharma shill indeed, calling for companies including Big Pharma to provide proof of safety and efficacy prior to, y’know, making claims and stuff. He clearly has it in for the American people, wanting to have the companies back up their claims with some shred of proof rather than a shiny label and feely-goody wording.

    Someone posting on this blog may be a shill, but I’m betting Ind. Mind. is more likely.

  27. #27 Melody
    August 12, 2009

    HR 3394, The Health Information Protection Act, inhibits the FTC from acting against any entity for communicating the health benefits of its products unless the FTC presents “clear and convincing” evidence that those statements are false. In concordance with the Fifth Amendment, the burden of proof concerning an accusation of a false claim is to fall upon the accuser (FTC) to determine, with legitimate evidence, that a claim is false before demanding its removal.

    Applying this logic across the advertising board, I suppose we should let people advertise toasters that ward off twisters, and not bother them about it until the government agencies can scare up a full-scale study thoroughly debunking the claim. About as plausible as some of the alternative treatments.

  28. #28 Chayanov
    August 12, 2009

    I get it. In a free market world, the next of kin of consumers who die from fraudulent medical treatments have the right to sue the companies who provided those treatments. If they win, the companies will have to change their practices. The market corrects itself. Unless they lose, that is.

    That’s a much better system than having a government that regulates these companies, requiring them to test their products and back up their claims about those products before they hit the market.

  29. #29 Richard Eis
    August 13, 2009

    I like how hawking magic cures to the gullible is now a free speech issue.

  30. #30 dean
    August 13, 2009

    ” Ron Paul is one of the few legitimate politicians today.”

    Sure, as his association with racist kooks, his incredibly stupid economic ideas show. Given his denial of evolution, it should be no surprise that he’s backing crap like this.

    He’s one of the poster-ready examples of dangerous politicians.

  31. #31 Jim Lippard
    August 13, 2009

    18 Mark P: In the case you describe, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to demonstrate fraud; there would be a preponderance of evidence standard in a civil proceeding. I don’t see your case as a counterexample.

    15 Dr. P: I think you’ve got the burden backwards–what’s the evidence of any intent to carve out a commercial exemption to the First Amendment? The site that Orac linked to admits that the court decision which created that exemption (in 1942, not 1791) was on shaky ground and has been subsequently narrowed.

    23 Scott: I think that’s the best argument, and a good case can be made for requiring demonstrable safety on public policy grounds about protecting the public from harm. But that can be done as a restriction on sales, without regard to claims or speech. I think it’s more difficult to justify a prior restraint restriction on claims about product efficacy. I also worry that the argument, broadly construed, may prove too much–why restrict such reasoning to health product claims (given that there are already safety-based restrictions across a wide range of products and services)? Perhaps an argument of indirect harm on the basis of substitution for genuine treatments, so that it can be tied back to public safety, could provide the justification.

    24 rrt: I agree completely with your argument about ethics–but what should the *legal* standard of required knowledge of efficacy be, and how should that be enforced, and how broadly?

  32. #32 Scott
    August 13, 2009

    I think it’s more difficult to justify a prior restraint restriction on claims about product efficacy. I also worry that the argument, broadly construed, may prove too much–why restrict such reasoning to health product claims (given that there are already safety-based restrictions across a wide range of products and services)? Perhaps an argument of indirect harm on the basis of substitution for genuine treatments, so that it can be tied back to public safety, could provide the justification.

    No need to worry about making an argument of indirect harm – making sales via untrue claims is fraudulent, which provides the harm (IOW the monetary harm of paying for a product which does not act as advertised is sufficient to justify intervention). Whether it is justifiable to block untrue claims is not under question; the issue is whether the burden of proof is on the government (to show it is untrue) or the seller (to show they are true).

    I also don’t see how it could be overgeneralized, given that the key components of my argument are pretty specialized – the scale of the cost necessary to obtain proof, and the (closely linked) inability to recognize untrue claims on an individual basis (i.e. no one victim can tell they were victimized; only in aggregate is the effect distinguishable). The latter leads to a requirement to test every product on the market, while the former renders that impractical for the government to do.

    If you can come up with a case where these two points apply, but placing the burden of proof on the entity making the claim is inappropriate, I’d be very interested to hear it.

  33. #33 VP
    August 13, 2009

    I get it. In a free market world, the next of kin of consumers who die from fraudulent medical treatments have the right to sue the companies who provided those treatments. If they win, the companies will have to change their practices. The market corrects itself. Unless they lose, that is.

    Yeah, take out the right to sue part and you’ve got what the losertarians want. To them, the ultimate rule is caveat emptor. Anyone who gets hurt deserves it for being “uninformed”,and anything that punishes a business for its actions is “tyranny” and “socialist” and “stifling creativity and freedom” and whatever other ignorant buzzwords they crib from the Great Liars’ writings.

    Never mind that obfuscation is all part of the corporate model – hey, it’s all those tiny little non-rich people’s faults, you know.

  34. #34 Joseph C.
    August 13, 2009

    The above blogger “Orac” is EXTREMELY naive as to what FDA, REALLY is. IT is a corporatist-fascist gvt-BigPharma collusion, to make itself immune from liabilities. The delusion that the FDA is here to ensure food and drug safety is akin to belief in Santa Claus. FDA, the very agency tasked to conduct “impartial” trials are FUNDED by the very BigPharma that they’re suppose to adjudicate. WTF?

    Vioxx ring a bell?

    It’s really dumb to refute your own point in the next paragraph. If the FDA made Merck “immune from liabilities”, then why did the litigation and settlements cost them just south of $5 billion?

    You’re just swirling around typing a bunch of paranoid nonsense without any regard to coherency whatsoever. And it’s hilarious. Thank you!

  35. #35 Emerson Cardoso
    August 15, 2009

    Hey guys, if really think that FDA is so nice and honest and great, why don’t you check out the ammount of people that interchangeably goes into FDA and Monsanto, check it out how it was deregulated so that GMF was passed without any deeper studies, the same for aspartame.

    I think that is quackery, your so much beloved word.

    Get the case of tamiflu and Donald rumsfelf, research about it and just stop trying to be all in favor for laboratories.

    And by the way, you shouldn’t dare opening your mouth to talk about congressman Ron Paul, we would be in a much better world if we had 10% of the politicians honest like him.

    http://www.anovaordemmundial.com/

  36. #36 Chris
    August 15, 2009

    Isn’t it lovely that a non-American gets to tell us about our own country, and yet uses the really very lame Pharma Shill Gambit.

  37. #37 Artus
    August 24, 2009

    Yes, the FDA has done a stellar job of keeping dangerous drugs off the market. There is no rigged game by which Big Pharma pulls the marionette strings of government.

    It is truly absurd that people would have the audacity to pretend to take care of themselves, research products before ingesting them, or decide with their physician how best to approach illness. How ridiculous, right?

    As Jacob Hornberger once said, “If you are not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you are not free at all.”

    While people may not always make the best decisions for themselves, the average person certainly knows what approach is better for them than does some power-drunk bureaucrat in D.C.

    At any rate, regardless of the merits or shortcomings of the effectiveness of the legislation, non-enumerated powers are unlawful under the 10th Amendment. The Constitution makes make no provision for the existence of a government agency empowered with controlling what food or medication a consumer can ingest. So leaving aside its bought-and-paid-for status, its gross inefficiency, and its apparent inability to spot clear dangers, the FDA is an unlawful agency by virtue of the law of the land. The second Constitutional strike is the FDA’s administrative lawmaking power–it too, is illegal. Check out the very first line of the U.S. Constitution:

    Article I

    Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…

    “All legislative power…” Translation: only Congress can make laws. Administrative laws put forth by committees, departments, and other alphabet soup bureaus and agencies are not legal or legally enforceable. I find it hysterical that in an article calling a man a quack for supporting freedom, the author blindly accepts the rogue power of an agency that exists solely by virtue of legal quackery.

  38. #38 Ramel
    August 24, 2009

    It sounds so smart, yet it is in fact a tower of burning stupid…..

  39. #39 Artus
    August 24, 2009

    VP,

    Your assessment is moronic, at best. Libertarians of all persuasions, from reluctant minarchists to outright anarcho-capitalists not only believe in “the right to sue,” but see suits and arbitration as the only moral way to settle disputes. Nearly all libertarian writings deal with this issue and wholeheartedly support victim compensation, whether through the fraud of misinformation, or out right violence. Libertarians have no desire to eliminate “the right to sue” and to suggest otherwise indicates that in lieu of any real, substantive issue with the philosophy, you base your position on utter falsehoods.

    I defy you point out any libertarian philosopher or writer of note that espouses a desire to eliminate lawsuits or binding arbitration. No matter how absurd your uninformed bloviations are, simply stating something, even something as utterly stupid as what you did, will never make a thing so.

    Clearly, freedom and creativity, to your thinking, are ideas to be sacrificed on the alter of Consumer Protection, irrespective of the reality that government itself is a huge threat to public health. The accepted idea that the state has ensured the safety of food and drug precludes most from doing any research themselves. Absent the truth of the matter, dangerous side-effects, allergic reactions, and allegedly “acceptable risks” remain unknown to consumers who operate under the deadly assumption that the state is protecting them.

    Your gross attempt to pigeon-hope those who love and respect individual freedom betrays a willful ignorance of libertarian thought. Regardless, why should those of us who do believe in individual choice, and a sort of caveat emptor philosophy be relegated to live in your statist utopia? Why cannot those of us with the bold impudence to question the omniscience of the state be free to reject government findings and choose our own treatments? Could it be because government is a power-addled beast that must control every aspect of its subject’s lives; that it has an insatiable and abysmal hunger that it gorges on freedom and choice; that everything imaginable must meet with the approval of state? Why on earth cannot those that trust the findings of bureaucrats ingest accordingly, while others do as they wish, despite the dire warnings on their bottles of medication?

  40. #40 Anthro
    October 5, 2009

    It’s way too late to be commenting now (October) but I just found out that Ron Paul is a…DOCTOR (YES, M.D.!). YIKES. Don’t know how that got by me. Mostly I’ve ignored him.

    This strengthens my view that the biggest problem with woo is that so many DOCTORS are pushing it these days. It’s hard enough to fight the wannabee docs (the “healers” and such), but more and more actual M.D.’s are getting into this stuff. Scary indeed.

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