Health Quackery: Spotting Health Scams
What Do Quacks Promise? continued...
Cancer Cures. Quacks prey on people's fear of cancer. They
promote treatments with no proven value - for example, a diet dangerously low
in protein or drugs such as Laetrile. By using unproven methods, people with
cancer may lose valuable time and the chance to receive a proven, effective
treatment. This delay may lessen the chance for controlling or curing the
Memory Aids. Many people worry about losing their memory as
they age. They may wrongly believe false promises that unproven treatments can
help them keep or improve their memory. So-called smart pills, removal of
amalgam dental fillings, and brain retraining exercises are all examples of
untested approaches that claim to help memory.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Health Scams?
Be wary. Question what you see or hear in ads or on the internet.
Newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV stations do not always check to make sure
the claims in their ads are true. Find out about a product before you buy.
Don't let a sales person force you to make a snap decision. Check with your
Remember stories about the old snake oil salesman who traveled from town to
town making claims for his fabulous product? Well, chances are today's quack is
using the same sales tricks. Look for red flags in ads or promotional material
Promise a quick or painless cure,
Claim to be made from a special, secret, or ancient formula - often only
available by mail or from one sponsor,
Use testimonials or undocumented case histories from satisfied patients,
Claim to be effective for a wide range of ailments,
Claim to cure a disease (such as arthritis or cancer) that is not yet
understood by medical science,
Offer an additional "free" gift or a larger amount of the product as
a "special promotion," or
Require advance payment and claim limited availability of the product.
For More Information
If you have questions about a product, talk to your doctor or contact one of
the organizations below. Get the facts about health products and protect
yourself from health care hoaxes.
National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
National Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 1-877-22-NIAMS (1-877-226-4267 - toll-free)
Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB)
4200 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22203
Check the telephone book for the number of your local chapter.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Phone: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357-toll-free)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857-0001
Phone: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332-toll-free)