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Marijah McCain Curbed by
Arkansas Attorney General

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In August 2002, Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor announced that his office has filed suit against the Southern College of Naturopathy (SCN) d/b/a Southern College of Naturopathic Medicine; Gary Axley, D.O.M.; Herbal Healer Academy, Inc (HHA); Marijah McCain; The Natural Path Massage Clinic; and Robert Maki, LMT for violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, seeks to enjoin these institutions and individuals from engaging in fraudulent, intentionally misleading and deceptive advertisements and business activities. McCain's Web site states that she HHA's "president, CEO and chief shareholder." [1]

On the same day, the FDA sent McCain a warning letter that the HHA Web site was making illegal health claims for at least 12 products: "Citricidal™," "5-HTP Capsules," "MYOMIN," "STOPSMO," "SHARK CARTILAGE," "ASPARAGUS EXTRACT," "COQ10," "MSM SULPHUR," "INTESTINAL FREEDOM," "HHA GLUCOSAMINE/CHONDROITIN," "ST. JOHN'S WORT," and "HHA NATURAL RELIEF."

The Attorney General's investigation concluded:

Pryor's press release noted, "This is a matter of public safety. . . . The claims made by this group are alarming."

McCain says that she became an "ordained minister" and a "Doctor of Divinity" in 1984. Her other "credentials" include "ND" (no source indicated); "Board Certified Naturopath" from the American Naturopathic Certification & Accreditation Board (not a recognized board; "MD (AM) Medical Doctor - Alternative Medicine" from the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine (not a recognized board); PhD from International Academy of Culture and Political Sciences - Belgium; "DiHom" from the British Institute of Homeopathy; and "MH (master herbalist, no source indicated). [3] The Spring 1999 issue of her quarterly newsletter, Herbal Healer Academy News stated:

The Herbal Healer Academy is now registered registered as a division of the Universal Light Church. We have done this in order to protect your rights to receive valuable naturopathic information. There are a number of legislative disasters in place by the negative powers that be that will try to limit our scope of freedom and practice. If you are a student or a naturopathic doctor, by becoming an ordained minister and setting up a division of the Universal Light Church, your legal rights to preach and educate about the benefits of natural medicine will be protected! . . .

By covering yourself as a minister, a Doctor of Divinity and a Church, you separate yourself from the state laws and may preach the value of God's healing herbs from the roof tops!

It seems unlikely, however, that this "religious defense" can protect unlicensed practitioners from being prosecuted if they attempt to diagnose or treat people.

In May 2003, the Attorney General's lawsuit was settled with a court-approved consent judgment which states that McCain and Herbal Healer Academy (HHA) must pay $10,000 to the State of Arkansas and must not:

The settlement agreement also permits McCain to describe her credentials without pointing out that they have no mainstream academic recognition or accreditation..

It appears to me that McCain is violating the injunction. The HHA site has more than 150 testimonials, most of which make disease-related claims about HHA's products [5]. The description of the products themselves [6] contain many claims that are false or unsubstantiated. For example, she describes "HHA Formula 1 with EDTA" as a "heavy metal and arterial plaque chelator . . . for long term maintenance and arterial health," even though EDTA has no effect on arterial health.

Many of the claims suggest that her "4-Herb formula" (Essiac), is effective against cancer. Moreover, her description of Essiac's history is very blatant:

Essiac is the name of nurse Rene CAISSE spelled backwards. A Canadian nurse named Rene Caisse first discovered this amazing herbal formula when one of the patients in the hospital where she worked was cured of cancer. The year was 1922! The patient had received the herbal preparation from an Ojibway herbalist. She began to experiment with the 4-HERB formula and found it to be very effective in helping many ailments including cancer. So startling were her results that the Ontario government of Canada became involved. By 1938, Essiac came within three votes of being legalized by the Ontario government as a treatment for terminal cancer patients. Unfortunately her work was destroyed and it took years to surface again.

The Herbal Healer Academy began researching the tea and found that many of nurse Caisse's claims were true. We do not and can not make any health claims regarding this formula, but we can supply you with the best herbs, instructions and our member testimonials. This tea is a nutritional supplement and is not recommended as the sole treatment for any ailment, especially life threatening ones. Please consult a health care practitioner for personalized care. This tea has been found helpful when used in conjunction with conventional medicine protocols [7].

I believe that this statement violates federal law as well as the Arkansas injunction against false representations. Although this statement contains disclaimers, it is clearly intended to indicate that Essiac is useful against cancer. There is no scientific evidence that Essiac is effective against cancer [8], and it cannot be legally marketed for that purpose in the United States.

On January 20, 2004, McCain's e-mail newsletter stated:

FDA TARGETS HERBAL HEALER WEBSITE AGAIN! URGENT TO ALL HHA MEMBERS COPY THE SPECIFIC AILMENTS PAGE NOW because we are going to take it down very soon. Copy the COLLOIDAL MINERALS PAGE and the BUY 1 Buy 3 Page as it has valuable information that will be removed. We are going to heavily edit to come into FDA compliance, but valuable information will be gone from our site. Put them on your hard drive as a text file (hard copy - your might have to cut and paste), not just the url link. It is up to you to keep the truth in alternative supplements out there! It is up to you to teach and tell your friends and neighbors about the safe and effective use of natural supplements. We are going to do a heavy edit on some other products to bring the Herbal Healer website into compliance but as you can see it is the American people that are losing valuable information that we have spent 16 years researching. ~ Marijah McCain [9]

Shortly afterward, the "Specific Ailments" page was replaced with a notice that "Herbal Healer is no longer allowed to provide you with our Specific Ailments page that contained valuable information regarding the use of supplements to help specific ailments. This page did contain our recommendation natural supplements for cancer, hepatitis, arthritis, candida, lupus, depression, infections, diabetes, thyroid problems, heart and arterial plaque problems, and so on... " This statemet is followed by an excerpt from the January 14 FDA warning letter that the claims were illegal. However, as of January 23, the other pages remain intact and the site still contains illegal claims made through testimonials.

References

  1. Plaintiff's original complaint for permanent injunctive relief and civil penalties. Mark Pryor v. Southern College of Naturopathy D/B/A Southern College of Naturopathic Medicine, Gary Axley, D.O.M., the Herbal Healer Academy, Inc., Marijah McCain, the Natural Path Massage Clinic, and Robert Maki, LMT. Filed Aug 12, 2002.
  2. Foret JB. Warning letter to Marijah McCain, Aug 12, 2002.
  3. Open letter from Marijah McCain. HHA Web site, accessed July 14, 2003.
  4. Consent decree. Mark Pryor v. Southern College of Naturopathy D/B/A Southern College of Naturopathic Medicine, Gary Axley, D.O.M., the Herbal Healer Academy, Inc., Marijah McCain, the Natural Path Massage Clinic, and Robert Maki, LMT, May 15, 2003.
  5. Herbal Healer Academy, Inc., testimonials & research. HHA Web site, accessed July 14, 2003.
  6. Herbal Healer Top Selling Products You Can Depend On! HHA Web site, accessed July 14, 2003.
  7. Essiac: A brief history. HHA Web site, accessed July 14, 2003.
  8. Essiac tea. In American Cancer Society's Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Methods. Atlanta: American Cancer Society 2000, pp 206-207.
  9. McCain M. Herbal Healer News (e-mail newsletter), Jan 20, 2004.

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This article was revised on January 23, 2004.