by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Health fraud schemes are not old. You’ve seen the movie version of the snake oil salesman traveling the countryside selling his miracle cures. But the same schemes are alive and well, all dressed up for the 21st century. Instead of traveling the country in a horse drawn wagon, they come to in the form of infomercials on TV, realistic websites via the Internet, or glossy magazine ads.
But the past and present have one thing in common, they are promising you an easy cure for difficult health problems…all for an amazing price! While these products claim to effective against medical conditions, they have never been proven to be safe or effective. What they do prove is that people are easy targets for deceptive sale practices.
Consumers waste billions of dollars a year on health scams that can have serious and even fatal consequences. Here are a few of the most common health product frauds:
- Cancer fraud: One of the longest running scams is the Hoxsey Cancer Treatment, an herbal regimen with no proven benefit. Another scam involves products called black salves which claim to draw cancer out of the skin, but can be corrosive to your tissues.
- Arthritis fraud: It is estimated that consumers spend about $2 billion a year on unproven arthritis remedies not backed by adequate science. For accurate information on arthritis treatments and alternative therapies check with the Arthritis Foundation at www.arthritis.org.
- Diabetes fraud: The FDA is taking action against sales of fraudulent diabetes “treatment” that claim to “drop your blood sugar 50 points in 30 days” or “reduce or eliminate the need for diabetes drugs or insulin.” You should always work with your doctor and healthcare provider in developing a diabetes treatment.
- Weight loss fraud: You cannot lose weight by taking a pill. You lose weight by changing your diet and increasing your exercise. These weight loss products can contain dangerous prescription drug ingredients that are not listed on the label.
- Sexual enhancement product fraud: There are many drugs being sold for treating erectile dysfunction and for enhancing sexual performance, usually marketed as “dietary supplements.” They are really illegal drugs that contain potentially harmful ingredients.
The people peddling these miracle cures provide glowing testimonials from people whose lives have been miraculously changed. But you need to realize that testimonials are not a substitute for scientific proof. The Food and Drug Administration advises that you never diagnose or treat yourself with questionable products.
Always check with your health care professional before using new medical products. And inform your doctor of any supplements or enhancements you are taking to make sure they do not conflict with your current medications.
Be sure and check out the companies selling the products with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. And check www.fda.gov for current schemes and warnings about these so-called miracle cures. Feel free to call me at 713-341-6184 with questions.