Glenn Braswell Advisors

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Glenn Braswell's Advisors

Almon Glenn Braswell, doing business primarily under the name Gero Vita International, markets pills and potions through the mail [1]. During the past 25 years, he has probably taken in more money and more people than any similar marketer in U.S. history. One reason for his commercial success is his association with health professionals whom he lists as advisors and/or authors of articles in his publications. Some of them are also quoted with their picture in his advertising brochures.

Each of the people listed below has been named as an advisory board member of Braswell's Journal of Longevity (previously called the Journal of Longevity Research), a monthly magazine that Braswell publishes. Those marked with an asterisk (*) have also been listed as advisors to Braswell's Medi-Plex Physicians Nutrition Network, whose members are said to be eligible to purchase his products at 40% to 50% discounts for resale to their patients.

The names listed in this article were obtained from the mastheads of Braswell's magazines published between 1995 and today. Some have appeared on only a few issues, while other have been listed throughout the entire time. Since Braswell is known to have used people's names and pictures without their authorization, it is possible that some names were used without permission. However, since most of them promote nonstandard health methods, it seems likely that the most, if not all, knew that they were listed. The late Ted Ponich, who was Braswell's chief operating officer from 1997 through 1998, told me that some of the articles appearing in Braswell's magazines were written by their authors and some were ghostwritten and sent to them for approval; and that authors were paid for the articles. Mike O'Neil, who served as Braswell's chief financial officer from August 1998 through January 1999, recently [../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Hearing/o'neil.html informed a Congressional committee] that:

The "Journal of Longevity" . . . . claims to be "a journal of medical research reviews in the preventive medicine fields." The fact is that it is neither a journal nor does it present any reviews of any preventive medicine. Every word in the magazine is composed by Braswell staff and furthermore every word is designed to do one thing—sell Braswell product. The magazine is presented in such a manner so as to suggest that it is a legitimate medical journal with articles written by various medical professionals. In the articles they describe a variety of medical situations that are painful, debilitating or life threatening. These articles run three to four pages with medical detail and facts. In these articles they describe various non-traditional herbal supplements that can solve these medical situations and restore health to whatever you are bothered by. Then, as luck would have it, there is an ad in the journal for a nutritional supplement sold by a seemingly unrelated company that contains the ingredients just described in the previous article and an 800 number where you can order the product. It is a nice clean process except that nowhere in the journal does it tell anyone that it is an advertisement. Further, the articles are not written by medical professionals but rather by Braswell staff. Finally, the articles and ads contain outright false statements. The articles and ads routinely toss phrases such as "thousands of doctors have praised whatever product" and "millions of men use whatever product" which are blatantly false. One product claims to improve memory, sex drive and reduces a chance of heart attacks by 83%. The articles routinely describe medical problems as life threatening, potentially deadly, causing severe illness or death. They are designed to scare and threaten the reader into purchasing the "antidote" or at the very least trying the product for $29.95. The products sold by the Braswell companies are rotated through the Journal with new product names and articles concocted as necessary. That is, if a product does not do well, it is renamed and given life in treating some other malady. New products were introduced at marketing meetings with Braswell retaining the right to override any conclusions from meetings. On more than one occasion, products were deemed to be ineffective and ads too outspoken and provocative for publication in marketing meetings, only to be overridden by Glenn Braswell many times to the disbelief of staff. What makes this inappropriate is the nature of the articles and advertisements. What makes this activity inexcusable is that it takes advantage of people with legitimate medical needs who are susceptible to a message of miracle remedies and cures. What needs to be considered is not what the person, who is in pain, is thinking when they read the ad, because they want to believe, almost need to believe, but rather what does the person writing the ad know to be true. To the extent that there is a difference, there is fraud [2].

Hans J. Kugler, PhD*

Braswell's closest collaborator appears to be Hans J. Kugler, PhD, who is identified as an author in Body Forum, a magazine Braswell published in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has written in many articles and appeared in many advertisements during the past decadeAmazon Books lists Kugler as author of seven books related to "anti-aging" strategies. The earliest title I could locate was Slowing Down the Aging Process, which was published as a hardcover in 1973. Throughout the 1980s, Kugler identified himself as president of the International Academy of Holistic Health & Medicine (IAHHM) and edited its monthly newsletter "Preventive Medicine Up-Date." He also marketed "Dr. Kugler's Maxima Formula," which was claimed to provide "Maximum nutrition support, maximum fitness potential, maximum longevity, maximum brain power, and maximum prevention." The ingredients were said to be "High potency B-complex. Mulit-minerals. Full-range antioxidants. Herbs, enzymes, special amino acids, RNA and energy substances, DMG, octacosanol, and more; a total of more than 55 special ingredients." [3] Kugler has also been president of the National Health Federation, a group whose primary goal has been to abolish government regulation of health-care activities [4].

Braswell's current publications identify Kugler as president of the International Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and of the International Academy of Alternative and Anti-Aging Medicine. IAHHM was founded in 1979 and is listed in California's database of charitable trusts. The other two organizations are not listed. None are listed in the Encyclopedia of Medical Organizations and Agencies, which means they are probably very small and have little or no genuine organizational activity.

In 1982, Kugler testified as an expert witness in a U.S. Postal Service case in which Braswell was ordered to stop making false representations for more than a dozen products. After hearing from experts on both sides, the administrative law judge commented:

Dr. Kugler attempted to substitute quantity of testimony for quality. He talked at great length, in generalities and frequently wandered from the subject. He did not support many of his conclusions with logical information. Additionally, I had questions with regard to his credibility, especially when he was asked whether he relied upon various articles. I felt that in many instances he was not truthful. There were contradictions in his testimony. I found him to be an unreliable witness [5].

Murray Susser, MD*

Murray Susser, MD, who heads the Longevity Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, is listed in a 1999 Medi-Plex Physicians Nutrition Network brochure as chairman of Gero Vita's medical advisory board. He entered general practice in 1967 after completing a one-year internship but "evolved" into "clinical nutrition" within a few years. A description of his facility stated that it offered "acupuncture, homeopathy, nutrition, chelation therapy, heavy metal detoxification, physical therapy, stress management, weight management, oxidative therapies, and detoxification therapy." A biographical sketch published iin 1990 stated that he had also worked as medical director in the offices of Robert Atkins, M.D., and has been president of the American Association of Medical Preventics, "an organization composed of doctors who primarly give chelation therapy." [6]

Like Kugler, Susser has been associated with Braswell for a long time. In 1980, Susser testified on Braswell's behalf in a case in which the Postal Service had filed False Representation Complaints in regard to 15 products. After hearing both sides, the administrative law judge concluded:

Complainant's witnesses spoke openly, answered questions frankly regardless of which party the answer might favor and gave informational background, when needed, in support of their answers. Respondent's witnesses hedged, wanted to indulge in word games, and verbally squirmed in their responses to questions. Instead of answering questions about the effect of ingesting a certain nutrient, such questions were used as spring boards for adorning the record with anecdotes of spectacular cures of such problems as underdeveloped children, people with bad memories, and excess weight effected through the use of vitamins and minerals.

Complainant's witnesses testified clearly and unequivocally that Respondent's products would not, and could not, perform as claimed for them in the statements in the advertising literature. Respondent's witnesses came behind them with oblique, indirect language suggesting various possible situations never shown really to exist, and sought to suggest, without saying, that the products would perform as represented.

The evidence presented by Complainant is representative of the consensus of the best scientific and medical information and opinion currently available on the issues in this proceeding. The evidence presented by Respondent does not reflect, incorporate, or express the consensus of current, informal medical and scientific opinion. The Complainant's witnesses are entitled to full credibility, whereas Respondents witnesses are simply not so entitled. I say this with respect to Respondent's witnesses because of their appearance and demeanor on the stand in some cases (Gushleff and Susser) because of their extreme partisanship as reflected in the tenor of their answers to certain questions (all of Respondent's witnesses) and because of the evasive responses to many questions which could, and should, have been answered simply and directly (all of Respondent's witnesses). [7]

In 1995, California's medical licensing authorities charged Susser with unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, incompetence, repeated negligent acts, and excessive use of diagnostic procedures. The complaint charged that he had failed to diagnose gallstones in one patient and colon cancer in two others. In each case, he ordered inappropriate tests, failed to order appropriate tests, and prescribed vitamins and other inappropriate treatment. In 1997, Susser signed a stipulated settlement under which he paid $15,000 for costs and served three years on probation [8,9]. In January 1998, he surrendered his New York State medical license without contesting that he had been disciplined by the Medical Board of California for gross negligence and incompetence. In 2005, the California licensing board fined him $5,000 and placed him on probation for five more years [10].

Other Current Advisors

The masthead of Braswell's Journal of Longevity has listed the following people as advisory board members during all or most of the past four years.

  • Ilona Abraham, MD,* who practices in Encino, California. The Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute's directory states that her practice includes intravenous nutrition, chelation therapy, total mercury detoxification, neural therapy, electrodermal skin testing, adrenal stress index tests for immune enhancement, "natural" hormone replacement therapy, and that she "prescribes smart drugs in connection with nutrition, anti-aging, and detox therapies."
  • Ronald Di Salvo, PhD,* director of research and product development, Paul Mitchell Cosmetics.
  • Another doctor who was said to practice in Ohio and do chelation therapy. Other information on the Internet said he promoted "Bioactive Cell Complex," a product made from organ cells of young animals, that, when taken by mouth allegedly "congregate at the human counterpart of the organ from which they were taken and "imprint" their vigor and vitality upon like organs in the human body" to give the user vigor; renewed sexual satisfaction, and a more youthful appearance [11]. (This claim is nonsense because any such cells would be digested and not enter the body intact.) In 2010, the doctor whose name and picture appeared in Braswell publications contacted me and said that Braswell used his name and photograph without permission and that he did not belong to Braswell's advisory board or write the articles in which his name and picture appeared.
  • Douglas Hunt, MD,* who practices in Burbank, California and has hosted a radio show. The directory of the American College for Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) lists his specialties as allergy, bariatrics, chelation therapy, hypoglycemia, metabolic medicine, nutrition, preventive medicine, and "yeast syndrome." (ACAM is a professional organization that promotes chelation therapy and many other dubious treatment methods. In1998, [../02ConsumerProtection/ftcchelation.html the FTC secured a consent agreement] barring ACAM from making unsubstantiated advertising claims that chelation therapy is effective against atherosclerosis or any other disease of the circulatory system [12].)
  • Ron Kennedy, MD, who operates the Anti-Aging Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa, California, and a large Web site called The Doctor's Medical Library The ACAM directory lists his specialties as chelation therapy, bariatrics, cardiovascular disease, degenerative disease, diabetes, endocrinology, and nutrition.
  • Ronald M. Lawrence, MD, PhD,* a neuropsychiatrist in Malibu, California, who is executive director of the Council on Natural Nutrition, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to educate physicians and the public about supplements, vitamins, and herbal products. He is an associate professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and a former member of the National Council of Aging at the National Institutes of Health. He is also president of the North American Academy of Magnetic Therapy and written books promoting magnets and [../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/msm.html methylsulfonamide (MSM)] for pain relief.
  • Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D,* who writes books promoting the use of herbs in treating the gamut of disease. The jacket of his 1986 book The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine states that his PhD is in psychology and psychopharmacology. The jacket and/or various Web sites that that he has been director of research and development at Amtec industries (now called Nature's Sunshine Products); director of the Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences; president of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory; director of the Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Science; and a consultant to Health Data Development Corporation. Nature's Sunshine has marketed many dubious products intended for the treatment of health problems [13]. During the mid-1980s, Health Data Development marketed Nutri-HealthData, a nutrition software program that provided "specific dietary, vitamin, mineral, and herb recommendations" for more than 120 health conditions [14. The listed conditions included appendicitis, dandruff, measles, venereal disease, and many others for whom such recommendations were not appropriate. Mowrey also appears to have been involved in a scheme to enable Solaray Corporation to convey unsubstantiated claims for herbal products that would be illegal to place on its product labels. During 1984, Cormorant Books of Lehi, Utah, sent retailers a four-page flyer and a 40-page booklet by Mowrey called "Proven Herbal Blends: A Rational Approach to Prevention & Remedy." The first page urged readers to ask for the booklet at their health-food store; the next two pages reproduced the table of contents listing health concerns and ingredients and the code number used to name each herbal bland.. The booklet's text explained in detail what each numbered blend was intended to accomplish. Mowrey has also produced a newsletter called "The Herb Blurb," which stated that its contents were "confidential" and "meant for retailer eyes only." [15].
  • Gary S. Ross, MD,* practices in San Francisco and teaches nutrition and clinical science at Meiji.College of Oriental Medicine in Berkeley. The ACAM directory lists his specialties as allergy, chelation therapy, degenerative disease, family practice, nutrition, and preventive medicine.
  • Robert Schiffer, MD, a gastroenterologist in Newport Beach, California.
  • Carol Uebelacker, MD,* who practices in Milwaukee and is listed in the ACAM directory with specialties of allergy, cardiovascular disease, bariatrics, chelation therapy, family practice, and gynecology.
  • Yuguo Ni, LicAc,* who practices acupuncture and herbology in Santa Monica, California, and teaches at the Samra University of Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles.\
  • Paul (Pavel) Yutsis, MD,* who operates the Yutsis Center for Integrated Medicine, Brooklyn, New York, where he offers "hyperbaric oxygen therapy, preventive medicine, nutritional therapy, general practice, clinical ecology, pediatrics, and chelation therapy." He is also "Assistant Professor of Medicine" at the Capital University of Integrative Medicine, a nonaccredited school in Washington, D.C., that advocates a wide range of quack practices.

Former Advisors

The following individuals were listed as Advisory Board members between 1995 and 1997, when Braswell's magazine was called the Journal of Longevity Research:

  • Aftab Ahmed, PhD, is director of research and business development for Wobenzym USA, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Charles Anderson, MD, who practices in Essex Junction, Vermont, and is listed in the ACAM directory as specializing in allergy, family practice, nutrition, and "yeast syndrom."
  • Hyla Cass, MD, who practices "[../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ortho.html orthomolecular psychiatry]" in Los Angeles, California, and has written four books about herbs. She chairs (and is the only listed faculty member) of the Department of Integrative Medicine at American University of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Los Angeles, California, a nonaccredited school. Her Web site biography states: "She has integrated nutritional medicine with psychiatry in her clinical practice. A popular public speaker, consultant, and educator, her topics include complementary medicine and psychiatry, anti-aging, women's health (including natural hormone therapy), stress reduction, and natural treatments for addictions, anxiety disorders, and depression. She is also a frequent commentator in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, contributor to numerous books and journals, and consultant to the supplement industry."
  • Anthony Cichoke, DC, DACBN, is a chiropractor who specializes in nutrition. He has written two books about enzyme supplements and chairs the Enzyme Committee for the Natural Products Quality Assurance Alliance. He also hosts a radio program called "The Dr. Enzyme Show."
  • L. Stephen Coles, MD, PhD, co-founder of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group
  • Arnold Fox, MD, practices internal medicine, cardiology, anti-aging, and "alternative healing" in Los Angeles. He is director of the National Anti-Aging Institute; host of Universal Anti-Aging Network radio programs; and Dean of Anti-Aging at the University of Integrated Studies. (a correspondence school). He is the medical advisor and nutrition consultant to Healthy Steps, a multilevel company that markets a "growth hormone activator" and several other questionable dietary supplement products. He is an advisor to NCA Labs, which markets a chitosan product with questionable weight-loss claims. He has authored ten books and many health-related articles. His Beverly Hills Medical Diet book claims that users can lose 10 pounds in two weeks.
  • Jay Gordon, MD, a pediatrician former medical correspondent for the ABC Home Show. His views include opposition to vaccination and water fluoridation. His Web site contains many recommendations for herbs and dietary supplements that he claims can help treat HIV infections by strengthening the immune system. In a e-mail message to me he stated, "I deeply regret my association with [Braswell's] magazine and had to engage attorneys to stop them from using my name in mailers and elsewhere." [16]
  • Jane Guiltinan, ND, director of the medical clinic at Bastyr University, a naturopathic school.
  • Dennis Harper, DO, who practices in Utah, is listed in the ACAM directory as specializing in allergy, chelation therapy, osteopathic manipulation, and "yeast syndrome."
  • Ronald L. Hoffman, MD, who practices in New York City, is a radio host and has written several books. The ACAM directory lists him as specializing in allergy, family practice, hypoglycemia, nutrition, and preventive medicine. His Hoffman Center is said to specialize in "chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, heart problems, attention deficit disorder and autism, gastrointestinal problems, liver disease, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, adjunctive support for cancer, psychiatric ailments, multiple chemical sensitivity, allergies, and menopausal and hormonal issues." His Web site offers "personalized metabolic testing" in which "observations of physical, blood, urine and saliva changes in response to a special glucose challenge" enable patients to be categorized according to their "metabolic type." The types, which are not recognizes by medical science, are then used as a basis for an "individualized diet and supplement prescription." He also markets supplements, some of which are private label formulations.
  • Earl Mindell, RPh, "PhD," a co-founder of the Great Earth International chain of health-food stores, has a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from North Dakota State University and "PhDs" in nutrition from two nonaccredited schools [14]. His many books include Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible, Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible for Kids, Unsafe at Any Meal, Earl Mindell's Herb Bible, and Earl Mindell's Soy Miracle. The Vitamin Bible recommends self-treatment with supplements for more than 50 health problems. The book also promotes substances that Mindell calls "vitamins" B10, B11, B13, B15, B17, P, T, and U. There is no scientific evidence that any of these substances are vitamins (essential to humans) or that supplements of any of them are beneficial. Mindell has been co-editor, with Richard Passwater, of Keats Publishing Company's "Good Health Guides," a large series of booklets promoting scores of questionable supplements. Mindell has also written information sheets that were distributed free of charge in many health-food stores. Although all of them warned that their information was "not intended as medical advice but only as a guide in working with your doctor," it is clear that they were used to boost sales by making claims that would be illegal on product labels. Now retired from active management of his stores, Mindell spends much of his time writing, lecturing, and appearing on talk shows. He writes a newsletter and is a consult to FreeLife International, a multilevel company that markets "Soy Miracle" products. FreeLife publications have called Mindell "America's #1 Nutrition Expert" and "America's Most Trusted Pharmacist, which he is obviously not. Mindell is also a board member of the Illinois College of Physicians and Surgeons, a "reactivated school of eclectic medicine" that I have been unable to locate.
  • James R. Privitera, MD, who practices in Covina, California, and is listed in the ACAM directory as specializing in allergy, chelation therapy, metabolic medicine, nutrition. In 1975, he was convicted of conspiring to prescribe and distribute laetrile (a quack cancer remedy) and was sentenced to six months in prison. In 1980, after the appeals process ended, he served 55 days in jail but was released after being pardoned by California Governor Jerry Brown. Privitera was also sanctioned by California's licensing board. Privitera is also medical director of NutriScreen, which markets equipment for [../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Tests/livecell.html live blood cell analysis], a bogus diagnostic test carried out by placing a drop of blood from the patient's fingertip on a microscope slide under a glass cover slip to keep it from drying out. The slide is then viewed at high magnification with a dark-field microscope that forwards the image to a television monitor. Both practitioner and patient can then see the blood cells, which appear as dark bodies outlined in white. The practitioner may take Polaroid photographs of the television picture or may videotape the procedure for himself and/or the patient. The results are then used as a basis for prescribing supplements.
  • Megan Shields, MD, who trained in family practice and pathology, practices at the Shaw Health Center in Los Angeles. She is the international medical advisor to Narconon, a drug treatment program backed by the Church of Scientology. She is also a trustee of and adviser to the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights™, a organization Scientology established in 1969 "to investigate and expose psychiatric abuses of human rights." At a 1995 convention, the president of the Church of Scientology International announced plans to "eradicate" psychiatry by the year 2000. [17]
  • Donald C. Thompson, MD, DPh,* a family practitioner in Morristown, Tennessee, whose activities and interest have included pain management, hormones, herbs, exercise, meditation, anti-aging therapies, orthomolecular treatment, chelation therapy, glandulars, homeopathy and psychotherapy.
  • Cynthia Mervis Watson, MD, who practices in Rolling Hills, California, is listed in the ACAM directory as specializing in family practice, gynecology, nutrition, preventive medicine, pediatrics, and "yeast syndrome."
  • Joseph D. Weissman, MD,* who is board certified in allergy and immunology, is a clinical assistant professor, at the University of California.
  • Gary Wikholm, MD, a family practitioner from California who is promoting an "anti-cellulite" pill marketed by Neways International.

It would be interesting to know the extent to which Braswell's advisors know or care about the nature of his marketing activities.

References

  1. Be wary of Gero Vita, A. Glenn Braswell, and Braswell's 'Journal' of Longevity. Quackwatch, Feb 24, 2001.
  2. O'Neil M. [../01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Hearing/o'neil.html Testimony to the United States Special Senate Committee on Aging Hearing on Swindlers, Hucksters and Snake Oil Salesmen: The Hype and Hope of Marketing Anti-Aging Products to Seniors,] September 10, 2001
  3. Advertisement in Preventive Medicine Up-Date, Volume 4, No. 8, 1989.
  4. Barrett S. Be wary of the National Health Federation. Quackwatch, July 18, 2003.
  5. Bernstein ES. In the matter of the complaint against Cosvetic Laboratories, Braswell, Inc., Earthquest Ltd., and Head Start, Inc. July 20, 1981.
  6. 18th Annual Cancer Convention. Biographies September 1, 2 &3, 1990 Padadena Hilton. Los Angeles: Cancer Control Society, 1990.
  7. In the matter of the complaint against Athena Products, Ltd., Aug 8, 1980.
  8. In the matter of the accusation against Murray Susser, MD. First amended and supplemental accusation. Case No. 07-92-16339, Jan 18, 1996.
  9. In the matter of the accusation against Murray Susser, MD. Stipulated settlement and disciplinary order. Case No. 07-92-16339, OAH No. L-9601259, Feb 18, 1997.
  10. Decision. In the matter of the accusation against Murray Susser, MD. Case No. 17-2002-133925, May 11, 2005.
  11. Live cell therapy: How wealthy & famous people avoid chronic health problems. Ask Tom Naturally Web site, accessed Sept 4, 2001. [As noted above, the doctor named as author, told me he did not write the article or agree with its contents.]
  12. [../02ConsumerProtection/ftcchelation.html Medical association settles false advertising charges over promotion of "chelation therapy."] FTC news release, Dec 8, 1998.
  13. Raso J. The shady business of Nature's Sunshine. Nutrition Forum 9:17-23, 1992.
  14. Nutri-HealthData brochure. Los Angeles: Health Data Development, 1985.
  15. Barrett S, Herbert V. The Vitamin Pushers: How the Health Food Industry Is Selling America a Bill of Goods. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994.
  16. Gordon JR. E-mail message to Dr. Stephen Barrett, Nov 6, 2001.
  17. Jentzsch H. Cited in Scientology News, issue 38, 1995, p. 4.


This article was revised on May 23, 2005.