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Glenn Braswell's Advisors

Stephen Barrett, MD

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 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.

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:

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. 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. 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.

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This article was revised on May 23, 2005.