Wednesday, January 06, 2010

American Academy of Family Physicians peddles snake oil & multi-level marketing?

Sure looks that way to me.

You see the American Academy of Family Physicians published some interesting advertisements in their 2009 Healthy Living magazine, something they bill as part of their, "AAFP Patient Education Program".

So about which products did the AAFP want to educate patients?

The first was for a product called Ubiquinol which according to the published advertisement,

"Fights fatigue and rejuvenates an active lifestyle",

"Provides the spark for 95% of your body's energy production",

"Is essential in maintaining and protecting heart health
and for aging Baby Boomers apparently its lack is,
"the key reason why your energy levels drop and you slow down"
Lofty claims, no? But wait, there's some teeny tiny fine print at the bottom of the ad that reads,
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease"
And we all know that everyone always reads the teeny-tiny fine print, right?

It gets worse. Much, much worse.

Next up is Chews-4-Health - a chewable dietary supplement designed by Dr. David Friedman, a chiropractor. Dr. Friedman has the very dubious distinction of being featured prominently on Quackwatch for his involvement with a product called Seasilver.

According to Quackwatch, Dr. Friedman was Chairman of Seasilver's advisory board and participated in infomercials that claimed Seasilver could cure cancer and other diseases. Thankfully the Federal Trade Commission reigned in Seasilver and banned Dr. Friedman from making unsubstantiated claims about it. Perhaps that's why Dr. Friedman has moved on to new ventures?

According to the Chews-4-Health website these supplements help with,


"improved mental focus",

"helps maintain intestinal health and immune system enhancing capabilities",

"nourishes, strengthens and revitalizes the body",

"increases stamina and energy",

"improved digestion",


"overall health and well being",

"may aid in promoting healthy organs
Oh and guess what? To make things even less savory Chews-4-Health appears to be a multi-level marketing scheme.

Chews4Health by the way, couldn't be more thrilled by the AAFP's seemingly tacit endorsement. Here's an excerpt from their November 2009 newsletter sent to their marketers (the emphasis by the way is theirs),
"Chews-4-Health has a powerful full-page ad in Healthy Lifestyle Magazine, which is sent to 95,000 family physicians each month! The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) HAND PICKED Chews-4-Health for the coveted back inside cover, and offered EXCLUSIVITY—meaning Chews is the only dietary supplement advertising in the magazine!

Over 240 MILLION patients visit AAFP doctors each year!! Additionally, Chews-4-Health will be featured on its website,, which gets 3.5 MILLION unique visitors each month!

All sign-ups from these doctors go to the NLM
Isn't it great that the American Academy of Family Physicians is including Chews-4-Health in their "AAFP Patient Education Program" and that they "hand-picked" it for the "coveted back inside cover"?

But don't worry, the AAFP don't actually stand behind their Patient Education Program so really, it's not their fault. You see despite hand-picking the ad and publishing Healthy Living magazine replete with the subheading, "Part of the AAFP Patient Education Program" the magazine has its own very small print disclaimer,
"Neither this book, nor its contents constitute an implied endorsement by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) or by Boston Hannah International of the products or services mentioned in advertising or editorial content."
And it's not just the ads they're not taking responsibility for,
"The editorial content in this publication does not necessarily represent policies or recommendations by AAFP."
What an absolute disgrace.

If you know a member of the AAFP, please kick this post their way.