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False Claims Of Cancer Cures Spurs FTC Consumer Education Campaign

By Nikki Weingartner     Sep 20, 2008 in Health
Victims of snake oil distributors are finally getting justice as the Federal Trade Commission helps launch a consumer warning campaign to help prevent vulnerable people from falling prey to false claims. Five companies have been officially charged.
Although its not being sold in tiny viles by some frightening man in a tall black hat and three piece suit, the "cure" for life threatening illness is finding its way to a vulnerable population and the Federal Trade Commission has had enough.
Five companies have been charged by the FTC for making false claims that they can cure cancer, while settlements have been reached with six other companies. And in response, the FTC, FDA and Canadian authorities are coming together to form a consumer ad campaign geared towards these "snake oil cures."
The Bureau of Consumer Protection's director, Lydia Parnes said in an AOL News article:
"There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind"
Those who are suffering from terminal illness are vulnerable and look for the cure that medical science cannot provide. That vulnerability is exactly what some target to fatten their bottom lines. With products from herbal remedies, teas, black salve and the famed "shrooms", some companies are claiming that their products are in fact the cure.
One such company who was specifically named by the FTC responded, called it government censorship:
Richard Jaffe, a Houston attorney who represents Native Essence Herb Company — one of those named by the FTC — argues that the government is trying to censor his client.
The company sells herbs over the Internet and advises people that some herbs have a historical use for treatment of cancer and other medical conditions, he said. That is a truthful claim, he said, adding that because an herb was used by ancient Chinese or native Americans doesn't mean it works, "which most people understand."
But do "most" people truly understand? A vulnerable and desperate mind may not fully comprehend that cream X has not been proven to cure, despite ambiguous or misleading claims of the cure. Remember, advertising is about marketing. Companies don't selling a leaf for $60 a bottle and not expect a return. These companies have no regulations governing their products aside from the FTC.
The FTC is also looking to block out information regarding "trials" being conducted in other countries, as this contributes to the false claims. Trial information in the United States is highly regulated and peer reviewed, but a trial conducted in another country could be nothing more than a back-alley test or even a fabricated claim.
Because some of the potentially erroneous claims may alter a clinically ill individual to forgo treatment altogether, the FDA further warns patients to speak to their physicians prior to purchasing or trying a miracle cure.
Settlements so far have been restitution of between $9,000 and $250,000 being paid out. The five companies that have been officially charged will go before judges. Those companies are:
Omega Supply, San Diego, Calif.
Native Essence Herb Company, El Prado, N.M.
Daniel Chapter One, Portsmouth
R.I.Gemtronics, Inc., Franklin, N.C.
Herbs for Cancer, Surprise, Ariz.
For many who enjoy a homeopathic road to health, this does not negate the benefits experienced from nature's own medicine. However, it does bring to light issues surrounding the vulnerability of a critically ill individual and someone filling their wallet off of that desperation.
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