Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

FDA Cracking Down on Illegal, Fake Cancer Treatments

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration issued multiple warning letters to the manufacturers of several unapproved, deceptively advertised, alleged 'cancer treatments.' The warning letters were issued alongside a public notice which warned consumers of the dangers of buying non-FDA approved products that claim to cure cancer.

Particularly worth noting is that the FDA's warning to consumers advised individuals to be wary of social media advertisements for cancer treatments, particularly if there is not a clear indication that the product has received FDA approval for their claims. The FDA noted a rise in social media advertising for these false cures. Additionally, the warning advised that individuals seeking cancer treatment, or prevention, should seek advice from medical doctors before beginning any course of treatment or action.

Red Flags for Consumers

While it may seem surprising, whether the pills are being sold on gas station counters, or during late night television infomercials, there are consumers out there that will buy those weird pills that promise to do all sorts of seemingly unbelievable things. From male enhancement to curing cancer, there's no end to what snake oil salesmen will promise if it gets them closer to a sale.

The FDA explained that there should be clear red flags that go up in a consumer's mind whenever they hear or see the following specific phrases on OTC product/drug or website with or without mention of FDA approval:

  • Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
  • Shrinks malignant tumors
  • Selectively kills cancer cells
  • More effective than chemotherapy
  • Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
  • Cures cancer
  • Treats all forms of cancer

When it comes to other false cure, or false hope, promising drugs and products, the FDA warns that similar tactics are used.

Companies Warned to Correct Course or Face Legal Action

The FDA's message was rather strong and deliberate. The companies issued these warnings were told to clear up the problems listed in the warnings, which mainly deal with removing any claims of their products' effectiveness at fighting cancer or other ailments. If a company fails to comply with the warnings issued by the FDA, legal action could involve seizing the actual products, fines, and potentially even criminal penalties.

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