Receiving a cancer diagnosis is, universally, scary news for anyone. And whether it’s by overwhelming fear, financial or physical limitations, it’s no wonder that some patients are driven to seek treatments outside the bounds of what doctors prescribed. But for companies that make millions by selling miracle cancer cures with no corroborating scientific evidence, the gimmick is about to end, says the FDA.
This week, the US Food and Drug Administration sent scathing warning letters to 14 companies that practice what it termed “cruel deception.” Specifically, the companies were cited for “illegally selling more than 65 products that fraudulently claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer."
The 14 companies that received a scolding from the FDA included: AIE Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Amazing Sour Sop Inc.; BioStar Technology International LLC; Caudill Seed & Warehouse Inc.; DoctorVicks.com; Everything Herbs; Hawk Dok Natural Salve LLC; Healing Within Products & Services Inc.; LifeVantage Corp.; Nature's Treasure Inc.; Oxygen Health Systems LLC; Sunstone Inc.; The Vibrant Health Store LLC dba Dr. Christopher's Herbs; and The Vitamin C Foundation.
These companies advertise various product types, including pills, creams, ointments, oils, teas, and at-home devices. While the products’ claims of reversing disease by killing cancer cells seem farfetched to an objective audience, cancer patients are more highly susceptible to the false promises. But the products could have devastating effects for the vulnerable. Aside from the financial loss and the emotional disappointment, patients may be unknowingly subjecting themselves to danger with these untested compounds. Furthermore, patients may forgo approved treatments that could actually make a difference in their outcome.
"There's a couple of issues here," said Jason Humbert, a regulatory operations officer in the FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs. "The FDA's role is to review and evaluate products for safety and effectiveness, particularly products that are intended for the treatment of a disease like cancer. Cancer requires the supervision of a licensed health care provider."
The products are advertised and sold on popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. However, they lack FDA approval. This means the product has yet to demonstrate safety and efficacy for their labeled use.
"Consumers should not use these or similar unproven products because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment," said Douglas W. Stearn, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement and Import Operations, in a written statement. "We encourage people to remain vigilant whether online or in a store, and avoid purchasing products marketed to treat cancer without any proof they will work. Patients should consult a healthcare professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer."
Companies that received the FDA warning have two recourses: either pull the product off the market, or revise their claims and packaging to comply with FDA standards. So, if a product hasn’t been approved to treat cancer, it can’t freely claim to be a cancer treatment in any way. Simple as that.
"I think the biggest red flag would be that any product that hasn't undergone FDA review is making a claim that it can treat or cure cancer," said Humbert. "Only products that have been evaluated -- approved FDA drugs -- can make those claims. So if a consumer happens upon a website or a social media site and they see that this product is marketed as a natural cure for cancer or a natural treatment for cancer, they should be very skeptical, because unless that product has been evaluated by FDA, there's no reason to believe it's safe or effective for that use."
Additional sources: CNN