If schadenfreude made a noise, then you’d be hearing it pretty loudly from me right now: Kevin Trudeau — a convicted credit card fraud, and a man who made tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars by telling people he could cure their cancer using, get this, coral calcium — has lost his appeal to the federal court, and must pay $37.6 million dollars in fines.
Trudeau, who shilled this false cancer cure as a diet supplement, was ordered by a federal judge in 2008 to stop making and airing infomercials about it. I wrote about this at the time, but I kept seeing those evil infomercials on TV. I wondered about this, but now I understand: Trudeau was trying to sidestep the order by selling books about this false cure, not the supplements directly. And, he kept buying up those ad spots while appealing the order. But on November 29th of this year, the appeals court said "nope".
The protections, unfortunately, were too weak: Trudeau aired infomercials in violation of the order at least 32,000 times. He should not now be surprised that he must pay for the loss he caused. At a minimum, it was easily within the district court’s discretion to conclude that he should. And $37.6 million correctly measures the loss. The figure is conservative — it only considers sales from the 800-number, not sales in bookstores carrying his "As Seen on TV" titles…
Wow, so he only violated a court order 32,000 times. But wait, there’s more! Apparently, there’s not a lot of real info in those books; they just funnel people to a web site urging them to spend hundreds of dollars for the products he sells. So how much money do you think he really made?
The court also instituted a $2 million bond in case he tries to make more infomercials. It doesn’t stop him from placing ads or writing books, just from bilking people using those long-form late night infomercials:
Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. If you haven’t had it yourself, the odds are extremely high you know someone who has, and who has died from it. I’ve lost loved ones to cancer, and it’s awful; it can take years filled with tests, hope, lack of hope, expensive therapy… and in the end the odds are what they are. It all makes for desperate times for those involved, with an emotional distress level that is beyond my ability to describe.
There are people out there who claim they can cure cancer, or have therapies that can mediate it. Some of these people are simply con artists, ready to swoop in as soon as they smell blood in the water, vermin that they are. Others are honest but wrong, thinking they have stumbled on some therapy that no one else has found. However, time and again, when these alternative methods are tested rigorously using controlled, properly done studies, they are shown not to work. In general this does not stop people from making the claims, however.
In Houston, Texas, is a man named Stanislaw Burzynski. He claims he has a method for treating cancer. He calls it antineoplaston therapy. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, “No randomized, controlled trials showing the effectiveness of antineoplastons have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.” That’s a bad sign. Furthermore, the FDA has not approved of antineoplaston therapy for use. Also telling is that “… other investigators have not been able to obtain the same results reported by Dr. Burzynski and his team”. Yet, despite this, Burzynski charges hundreds of thousands of dollars for people to get his therapy — though he has to say they’re participating in research trials, since the FDA won’t allow him to use his ideas as an actual treatment.
Those are red flags, to be sure.
I recently wrote a post about the lack of any evidence that cell phones cause cancer. Not too surprisingly, a lot of alarmist comments followed, many of which actually proved one of my points that the threat is exaggerated: at the very best studies show a very tenuous link between cell phones and health issues, yet people are claiming the relationship is obvious. Clearly, that’s not the case.
I’ll admit my title, "Repeat after me: cell phones don’t cause brain cancer", was overzealous. It’s very difficult to prove that with 100% accuracy. As a skeptic I have to admit that there is some slim chance of a causational relationship, even though study after study show there isn’t.
So it was interesting to me to see Michael Shermer write a post about this for the Skepticblog: Cell phones and cancer. It’s a well-written and clear article with references, links, and quotations from doctors showing that, despite the claims by many people, there is very little or no reason to think cell phone radiation causes brain damage.
Of course, if you’re using one to text while driving, brain damage is far more likely in the form of sudden catastrophic deceleration. So that’s a good time to avoid cell phones. But in ordinary use, I’m not worried, and I’ll continue to use mine. Especially if I finally do start playing Angry Birds.
Hey, antivaxxers! I just wanted to send you guys a quick note of thanks for all the work you do.
For example, that whole thing about getting mumps to resurge due to lower vaccinations rates in the UK? That’s very cool. We all missed mumps so much.
Also, the way you guys dupe parents is simply brilliant!
You’ve been pretty effective getting the word out, especially the way you market yourselves as just trying to be questioning, just trying to get all the facts out. It works! You’ve been able to trick inquisitive, rational people into thinking maybe you’re onto something, when of course we all know you’re using outdated ideas, twisted facts, and sometimes out-and-out lies (which, of course, appeals to people prone to conspiracy thinking anyway). I mean, taking something that almost certainly has nothing to do with vaccinations but making that a meme spreading across the media? Great stuff! And the way you viciously attack people who disagree with you? Fantastic!
But you should really sit back and take a look at Suzanne Somers. Now there’s someone who takes incoherent nonsense about cancer and is able to market and spin it into quite an industry for herself. And who can blame her? She gets on Oprah, CNN, radio shows… and the only cost is a maybe a few thousand people dying of cancer because they tried her provably wrong "cures" instead of seeking real medical help. But hey! We all have to die someday! I mean, let’s have some perspective here. After all, what has science ever done for us?
Hat tip to Gerick Lee and many others for these tips.
In the crazy topsy-turvy world of alternative medicine, the forces of reality win some and lose some.
WIN: An alleged quack who allegedly sold herbal cures for cancer has been slapped with a fraud lawsuit. The charges are that this ordained Pentecostal minister preyed on vulnerable terminal cancer patients using religious trappings. Nice.
LOSE: The Natural News altmed website — which promotes all sorts of nonsense, including connecting vaccines and autism — reports that a "health freedom attorney" (heh) has filed a suit against the FDA to halt the distribution of swine flu vaccine. However, their claims of this vaccine being rushed, untested, and so on, are all completely false.
Y’know, if people want to take tinctures and poultices and whatever that does nothing whatsoever instead of real medicine, that’s their right. But when they try to stop others from getting real medicine — medicine that can save many lives — because of their own gross misunderstanding of science, then that becomes a public threat. I hope the judge throws this case out of court, and then fines all those involved for frivolous lawsuits.
Not-so-incidentally, the Natural News website says this suit is being filed on behalf of Gary Null, and a perusal of his website shows him to be antivax as well as an AIDS denialist (someone who doesn’t think HIV causes AIDS)… and I am shocked, shocked, to find out he has his own line of alternative cures. These are the kinds of folks we’re dealing with, and why I get so very upset about all this.
So this really isn’t a "lose" yet, but it’s a lose in the sense that people with such a tenuous grasp of reality attack it with such fervor. They are putting everyone at risk: you, me, everyone. That’s why I am so vocal, and will continue to be.