If you buy imported products marketed as “dietary supplements” and nonprescription drug products from ethnic or international stores, flea markets, swap meets or online, watch out. Health scammers often target advertising to people who prefer to shop at nontraditional places, especially those who have limited English proficiency and limited access to health care services and information
“Natural” Does Not Mean “Safe”
Just because a product claims to be natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe, says Gary Coody, R. Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator. Likewise, just because a product claims to be natural does not mean that it’s free of hidden drug ingredients.Furthermore, these products may also be contaminated or contain potentially harmful chemicals or drug ingredients not listed on the label.For example, many products that claim to help people lose weight contain hidden and dangerous prescription drug ingredients such as sibutramine. Sibutramine was in Meridia, a formerly FDA-approved drug that was removed from the market in October 2010 because clinical data indicated it posed an increased risk of heart problems and strokes.
How’s Do You Know It’s Fraudulent?
Watch out for these claims:One product does it all.
1. Be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of diseases.
2. Personal testimonials. Success stories such as “It cured my diabetes,” or “My tumors are gone,” are easy to make up and are not a substitution for scientific evidence.
3. Quick fixes. Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, even with legitimate products.
4. Beware of language such as “lose 30 pounds in 30 days,” or “eliminates skin cancer in days.”
5. “All natural.” Some plants found in nature can kill if you eat them. Plus, FDA has found products promoted as “all natural” that contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients.
6. Miracle cure. Alarms should go off when you see this claim or others like it such as “new discovery” or “scientific breakthrough.” A real cure for a serious disease would be all over the media and prescribed by doctors—not buried in print ads, TV infomercials, or on Internet sites.
7. FDA-Approved. Domestic or imported dietary supplements are not approved by FDA.
Finally, if you’re tempted to buy an unproven product or one with questionable claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first. You can also check FDA’s website to see if the agency has already taken action on it.f