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Posted: September 23, 2008

Caregiver Alert: FTC Cracks Down On Bogus Cancer Cures

The Federal Trade Commission has announced 11 law enforcement actions challenging deceptive advertising of bogus cancer cures. The FTC charged the companies with making unsupported claims that their products cured or treated one or more types of cancer.

In each case, the company is charged with violating the FTC Act, which bars deceptive claims. Some complaints allege that the companies also falsely claimed clinical or scientific proof for their products.


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"There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.


Of the 11 complaints, six have been resolved by proposed settlements; the rest will be litigated, the FTC said. In all cases, the companies will be required to notify consumers who purchased the products challenged in the complaints that there was little or no scientific evidence demonstrating the products' effectiveness for treating or curing cancer.


The FTC says the companies also must urge these customers to consult with their doctors about the products. In addition, the companies will be prohibited from selling or disclosing their consumer lists to others for mailing contact. The products the companies marketed include essiac teas and other herbal mixtures, laetrile, black salve, and mushroom extracts.


"Many of these products are scams," Parnes said, "and let's face it, when you're battling cancer, the last thing you need is a scam. The best idea is to talk to your doctor about any treatment that you are thinking about taking."


The FTC also announced a new website about bogus cancer cures at The site tells consumers how to spot and report bogus claims they see online, and urges people with cancer to talk to their treatment team about any products they'd like to try.


The site features a video and includes a list of resources on cancer treatments from a variety of agencies within the federal government. Information is provided in English and Spanish.


The cases originated with an Internet surf conducted in June 2007 by the FTC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Competition Bureau Canada. Following the surf, the FTC sent warning letters via e-mail to 112 websites between August 2007 and January 2008. Of these, nearly 30% either closed their sites or removed the problematic cancer treatment claims, the FTC said. The remainder were reviewed to determine whether a law enforcement action was warranted or whether they should be referred to the FDA or the Competition Bureau.


The FDA sent warning letters to 23 US companies and two foreign individuals. The warning letters stated that because the marketed products claimed to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent cancer, and because they are not proven to be safe and effective for their labeled use, they are unapproved new drugs marketed in violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


The Competition Bureau sent warning letters to Canadian companies that were selling fraudulent cancer cures online. Almost all the companies have adequately corrected their marketing materials, and the bureau will take additional enforcement actions to ensure compliance by the rest.


The FTC sued five companies. The cases will be tried before an administrative law judge at the FTC. In each case, the FTC seeks an order prohibiting the respondents from representing that their products prevent, treat, or cure any type of cancer unless the representation is true, non-misleading, and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The FTC also will seek orders prohibiting the respondents from making representations about any health-related products without competent and reliable scientific evidence.


(Article courtesy of

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