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Fall 2008, Vol. 3 Issue 2

News from the Field

FDA Warns Against Selling and Using Fake Cancer 'Cures'

In one of the largest, coordinated enforcement actions against cancer health care fraud, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently sent regulatory “Warning Letters” to 23 U.S. companies and two foreign individuals that are marketing a wide range of products fraudulently claiming to prevent and cure cancer. FDA also warned consumers against using or purchasing the products, which include tablets, teas, tonics, black salves, and creams and are sold under various names on the Internet.

FDA took the action in coordination with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and enforcement agencies from Canada and Mexico. Although FDA pursues individual cases of health fraud on a continual basis, “this campaign targeted the largest number of individuals at a single time,” noted FDA Press Officer Rita Chappelle.

A list of the companies and individuals warned, as well as the complete list of fake cancer 'cure' products and their manufacturers can be found on the FDA’s Web site at

“This is the most heinous type of health fraud aimed at unsuspecting and very vulnerable consumers and cancer patients,” Ms. Chappelle added. “Such individuals are looking for ways to cure their serious diseases, and they’re very susceptible to these false and fraudulent marketers who basically prey on such people.”

Congratulations Dr. Jie Li!!

Dr. Jie Li, a visiting postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR), was honored with the Outstanding Poster Presentation Award for his presentation “Inhibitory Effect of Sheng Qi Formula (SQF) on Gr-1+CD11b+ Myeloid Immunosuppressor Cells (MIC) in the 4T1 Murine Mammary Cancer Model” at the 8th Annual NCI/CCR Fellows and Young Investigators Colloquium on March 3, 2008 in Ocean City, MD.
FDA and its counterparts in the MUCH (Mexico-USA-Canada Health) Fraud working group identified most of the unapproved claims by “scouring the Internet,” Ms. Chappelle said. In response, many of the targeted companies have already taken corrective measures and responded to the issues addressed by FDA’s warning letters. “They’ve removed the fraudulent claims from their Web sites, shut down the Web sites, and taken other actions,” she reported. Companies which fail to comply with FDA’s warnings face additional legal action including possible injunctions and court-ordered seizures.

The FDA urges consumers to consult their health care providers about the use of these products and to seek appropriate medical attention if they have experienced any adverse effects. In addition, consumers and patients can contact the NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) to ask questions and share their concerns about cancer and various treatments, including CAM, and receive numerous sources of up-to-date, credible information.

Signs of Health Fraud

All consumers seeking information about any health product or medical treatment should be familiar with the following signs of health fraud:

  • Statements that the product is a quick and effective cure-all or a diagnostic tool for a wide variety of ailments.
  • Suggestions that a product can treat or cure serious or incurable diseases.
  • Claims such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient," and "ancient remedy."
  • Impressive-sounding terms, such as "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis" about weight loss product, for instance.
  • Claims that the product is safe because it is "natural."
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results.
  • Claims of limited availability and advance payment requirements.
  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees.
  • Promises of an "easy" fix for problems like excess weight, hair loss, or impotency.

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