Doctor Speaks Out on Cancer Health Fraud

April 26, 2017

Not all cancer treatments are safe and not all companies marketing the products are ethical.

On Tuesday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to 14 U.S.-based companies illegally selling more than 65 products that fraudulently claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer. The products were marketed and sold without FDA approval, most commonly on websites and social media platforms.

It is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to market and sell products that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure diseases without first demonstrating to the FDA that they are safe and effective for their labeled uses.

But how can consumers be sure that the products are approved?

“The key thing is if it’s not medicine, it’s not approved,” said Dr. William Wooden, director of operative services at IU Health. “True cancer treatment requires medicine or surgery.”

The illegally sold products included pills, topical creams, ointments, oils, drops, syrups, teas and diagnostics (such as thermography devices). They included products marketed for use by humans or pets with unproven claims regarding preventing, reversing or curing cancer; killing/inhibiting cancer cells or tumors; or other similar anti-cancer claims, according to FDA reports.

“Another thing we talk about is basic wellness,” said Wooden. “There are things that patients can do to help them through cancer treatment such a as a well diet. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking over-the-counter dietary supplements.” Sometimes, those supplements can interfere with treatment, he said.

“There have been studies where cancer patients have been given additional amounts of a certain vitamin. If they aren’t deficient, then they don’t need additional amounts.”

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has requested responses from the 14 companies that illegally sold the products, stating how the violations will be corrected. Failure to correct the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure, injunction and/or criminal prosecution.

As part of the ongoing efforts to protect consumers from cancer health fraud, the FDA has issued more than 90 warning letters in the past 10 years to companies marketing hundreds of fraudulent products. Many of the companies stopped selling the products or making fraudulent claims. But still, other unsafe and unapproved products continue to be sold directly to consumers.

“Patients should always consult their doctors regarding their treatment plan,” said Wooden. “At IU Health we take pride in providing thorough patient care. I don’t mind spending an extra 15 minutes answering questions in order to keep my patients on the right path to treatment.”

- T.J. Banes

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