False cancer cure claims lead to federal charges against five US companies

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Federal Trade Commission headquarters, Washington, D.C.

The United States Federal Trade Commission filed charges against five companies for "deceptive advertising of bogus cancer cures". An additional six companies also named in the federal agency's complaint have settled and their cases will not go into litigation; however, they will be required to send letters to their former customers, and four will be forced to offer reimbursement

The five companies charged are Omega Supply, San Diego, California; Native Essence Herb Company, El Prado, New Mexico; Daniel Chapter One, Portsmouth, Rhode Island; Gemtronics, Inc., Franklin, North Carolina, and Herbs for Cancer, Surprise, Arizona. According to Lydia Parnes, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, "There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind."

Attorney Richard Jaffe who represents the firm Native Essence, one of the companies charged, protested against the FDA's action. "In our view it's a battle between the right to speak and the government's censorship." Native Essence sells herbal supplements and informs customers of herbs that have historic use for cancer and other ailments. Jaffe asserts the claim of historic use is truthful and does not necessarily mean that the herb is effective. Other items marketed by the companies named in the action include laetrile, essiac tea, mushroom extracts, and black salve. FDA representative Douglas Stearn expressed concern that people who have cancer may select these items instead of treatments that have been studied and found effective, or that unstudied herbal treatments could produce drug interactions with conventional medicine.

Before filing legal action the FTC sent over 100 warning letters and many firms dropped or changed the health claims for their products. In conjunction with the announcement the FDA announced a new website http://www.ftc.gov/curious that urges cancer patients to discuss all treatments they consider trying with their physicians, warns about the dangers of delaying or stopping cancer treatments in favour of alternative medicine, and gives advice about spotting and reporting false health claims.


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