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FDA: Watch Out for Phony Cancer Cures

Agency Wants Companies to Stop Hawking Products as Cancer Treatments
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 17, 2008 -- The FDA today warned 25 companies to quit claiming their products cure cancer and urged consumers not to fall for fake cancer cures.

In warning letters, the FDA ordered 23 U.S. companies, as well as a Canadian company and an Australian firm, to stop marketing products as cancer cures. The list of companies and the products in question are noted on the FDA's web site.

The FDA is taking those companies to task over 125 products that include ingredients such as bloodroot, shark cartilage, coral calcium, cesium, ellagic acid, cat's claw, an herbal tea called Essiac, and mushroom varieties such as Agaricus blazei, shitake, maitake, and reishi.

Examples of fraudulent claims for the products include:

  • "Treats all forms of cancer"
  • "Causes cancer cells to commit suicide!"
  • "80% more effective than then world's number one cancer drug"
  • "Skin cancers disappear"
  • "Target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone"
  • "Shrinks malignant tumors"
  • "Avoid painful surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or other conventional treatment"

Because the products claim to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease -- and have not been shown to be safe and effective -- the FDA considers them to be unapproved drugs marketed in violation of federal law.

Some of the products may be unsafe, might interfere with other cancer treatments, or may be used instead of medically acceptable treatment, notes David Elder, director of the Office of Enforcement in the FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs.

Health fraud is a "cruel form of greed," Elder said in a news conference, calling fraud involving cancer treatment "especially heartless."

The FDA urges people using such products to talk to their doctor about discontinuing their use and to seek appropriate medical attention if they've experienced any side effects while taking the products.

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