FTC clamps down on bogus cancer cures

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Five US dietary supplement companies are facing lawsuits for marketing cancer cures, while another six firms have settled out of court following a crack down by the nation’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The companies in question marketed essiac teas, herbal mixtures, laetrile, black salve and mushroom extracts as products that could help cure or treat cancer.

FTC yesterday announced enforcement actions against the firms, on the grounds that they violated the FTC Act, which bars deceptive claims. Some complaints also allege that the companies falsely highlighted clinical or scientific proof for their products.

“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.

“Many of these products are scams, 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,”​ she said.

FTC is a law enforcement agency responsible for ensuring that consumer products are properly marketed. Whereas the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates product labeling, FTC regulates product advertising.

The two basic principles it looks for when assessing product marketing are that advertising must be truthful and not misleading and that objective claims must be substantiated before they are made.

To read the NutraIngredients-USA.com article on FTC’s approach to ensuring accurate marketing, click here​.

Enforcement

The eleven companies challenged must notify consumers who purchased the products that there was little or no scientific evidence demonstrating their effectiveness for treating or curing cancer.

They will be prohibited from selling or disclosing their consumer lists to others.

The five complaints that were not resolved by proposed settlements were sued. As well as ordering a withdrawal of the misleading cancer sure claims, the FTC said it would also seek orders prohibiting the firms from selling any other health-related products not back by “competent and reliable scientific evidence".

Web scanning

The current cases began through an internet surf conducted by the FTC, the FDA and Competition Bureau Canada in June 2007. This resulted in FTC sending warning letters to over 100 websites. Some 30 percent of these sites subsequently closed or removed the claims in question.

Following a review of the remaining sites, the agencies sent additional warning letters stating that because the products 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.

FTC said almost all the companies have consequently modified their marketing. The rest will face additional enforcement actions.

Baddies

The 11 companies involved in the current enforcement action are:

  • Alexander Heckman d/b/a Omega Supply
  • Native Essence Herb Company
  • Daniel Chapter One
  • Gemtronics, Inc.
  • Mary T. Spohn d/b/a Herbs for Cancer
  • Nu-Gen Nutrition, Inc.
  • Westberry Enterprises, Inc. –
  • Jim Clark’s All Natural Cancer Therapy
  • Bioque Technologies, Inc.
  • Holly A. Bacon d/b/a Cleansing Time Pro
  • Premium-essiac-tea-4less

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