Action Taken Against Bogus Cancer Claims
In a press release issued on September 18, 2008, the FTC said it h a d invoked 11 law enforcement actions under the FTC Act that bars deceptive claims. The FTC took the s e actions against several companies allegedly using deceptive advertisements stating that their products cure or treat cancer while offering either no proof, or quoting false clinical evidence in sup port of their cancer treatment / cure claims. The cancertreatment / cure products affected include:
- black salve (a corrosive ointment),
- essiac teas and other herbal mixtures,
- mushroom extracts"
The crackdown started in June 2007 with a sweep of the Internet by the FTC, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Canada's Competition Bureau.
The agencies emailed warning letters to 112 website between August 2007 and January 2008, which caused 30 sites to close or remove the unfounded claims.
The ones that did not do this were then reviewed again to decide whether they should be prosecuted under the law or referred either to the FDA or the Competition Bureau. The FDA sent warning letters to 23 companies in the US and 2 individuals outside the US, stating that their products were in violation of the US federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they were claiming they could "cure, treat, mitigate or prevent cancer ", and were not proven to be safe or effective as per their label.
FTC Legal Actions
The FTC said nearly all the companies have now corrected their advertising material and the agency will take further enforcement action to pursue the rest. The companies and products that did not heed the enforcement action and as a result are being prosecuted include:
- Alexander Heckman d/b/a Omega Supply: Laetrile (can cause cyanide poisoning at high doses); hydrazine sulphate (a potential carcinogen); cloracesium (contains celsium chloride). In this case the company is accused of making making false claims that the products prevent, treat and cure cancer, and also that scientific evidence exists to support these claims.
- Bioque Technologies, Inc: Extract from the soursop or guanabana tropical fruit tree, and another product, Serum GV. Their advertisements claimed these could prevent and treat melanoma. They have agreed a settlement to pay the full amount of sales of these products in redress.
- Daniel Chapter One: Various herbal formulations plus shark cartilage. This company is accused of claiming the products prevent, treat and cure cancer and that their herbal products mitigate the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
- Gemtronics, Inc: RAAX11 (made of chrysobalanus icaco, a derivative from a tropical bush, and agaricus, a medicinal mushroom). This company is accused of falsely claiming the product prevents, treats and cures various types of cancers, and that there is scientific proof of this.
- Holly A. Bacon d/b/a Cleansing Time Pro: Black salve (a corrosive in tablet and salve form that has been reported to cause severe burns and permanent scarring in high concentrations). The organization is accused of claiming that either form of the product can prevent, treat and cure various types of cancer, and Holly A Bacon did not reveal that she, the owner of the company, was the "satisfied user" quoted in the advertisements. Other claims made for the product, said the FTC, include ability to treat and cure viral infections such as HIV, SARS and Avian Flu.
- Jim Clark's All Natural Cancer Therapy: Marketed metabolic therapy products (laetrile, apricot seeds, digestive enzymes, okra-pepsin-E3, and coral calcium) claimed to prevent, treat and cure various types of cancers. The two individuals concerned have agreed to pay a settlement, which is pending outcome of financial investigation.
- Mary T. Spohn d/b/a Herbs for Cancer: Accused of falsely claiming they fight 16 different types of cancers. Another type of blended tea claimed to be a "special formula" for "cancers not our list". Also accused of claiming scientific evidence exists of the effectiveness of the products.
- Native Essence Herb Company: Native Essence Herb Company is accused of marketing herbal concoctions (Rene Caisse essiac tea blend and cat's claw), the herb chaparral (classified as unsafe by the FDA in 1992 because of links to toxic hepatitis), and maitake mushrooms extracts and making false claims that these products treat and cure various types of cancers, shrink or eliminate tumors and prevent breast cancer.
- Nu-Gen Nutrition, Inc: This company marketed cantron (electrolyte liquid), apricot seeds (containing laetrile) as treatments and cures for various types of cancers. The company has agreed a settlement based on sales of the products, pending outcome of financial investigation.
- Premium-essiac-tea-4less: Premium-essiac-tea-4less is accused of claiming the product was an effective treatment for cancer, AIDS, ulcers, hepatitis C; and many other diseases. According to the FTC, Premium-essiac-tea-4less's advertising recommended that "a daily intake based on whether the consumer is well, sick with various types of cancers or another disease, trying to prevent a relapse of cancer or another disease, or currently undergoing chemotherapy or radiation."
- Westberry Enterprises, Inc: The FTC said Westberry Enterprises, Inc. marketed "herbal tea containing burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm bark, and Turkish rhubarb root; melatonin; a woody vine found in the jungles of Latin America that is known as cat's claw; saltwater blue-green algae; and a mixture of roots, leaves, and barks from various plant". They were accused of claiming these products could treat and cure various types of cancer. Westberry Enterprises, Inc. have also agreed to pay a settlement based on product sales that is pending outcome of a financial investigation.
All the companies and persons involved are required to tell customers who bought the affected products that there is no scientific evidence of their efficacy in treating or curing cancer and they should see their doctor about it. 6 of the 11 complaints are expected to be resolved by proposed settlements, the others will be prosecuted.
Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, Lydia Parkes, said: "There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind." Parnes added, " many of the products are "scams", and consumers should talk to their doctor about any treatment they are considering before they take it. When you're battling cancer, the last thing you need is a scam." said Parnes.
Online FTC Resources to Check for Bogus Cancer Cures
The FTC has launched a new website at www.ftc.gov/curious to raise awareness about bogus cancer cures. The site explains how to recognize and report bogus cancer cure claims that they see on the internet, and urges people to seek professional advice if they are considering trying any cancer treatment products themselves.
Canada Competition Bureau Action
The Competition Bureau in Canada also sent similar warning letter to companies claiming they could "cure, treat, mitigate or prevent cancer " in Canada.Enforcement actions in Canada are sure to follow.
Source: FTC, September 18, 2008.