Using Social Media To Sell Snake Oil




The Internet is full of fraudulent sites claiming to cure everything from AIDS, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis C, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's - and that names only a few.

The more serious the disease, the more likely dishonest people will find a way to capitalize on it.

Viral hepatitis has become a hot commodity for these unscrupulous entrepreneurs; coercing innocent people to click their way right into an online scam.

To protect the public and stop these sites from enticing consumers into buying unproven products through the use of false claims the FDA steps in by issuing a warning letter. If that doesn't work the agency then initiates an enforcement action. These warning letters are publicly posted on the FDA's website.

With the popularity of social networking Facebook has become an avenue for the supplement industry to expand advertising and lure customers into their world of deceit.

Recently, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on the FDA warning letter sent to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum for claims he made about supplements for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In the warning letter the FDA said he also unlawfully used his Facebook account to promote his products, see excerpt below.

A commercial website for people suffering from symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia is rife with numerous illegal and misleading treatment claims, according to a recent warning letter sent to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 
Teitelbaum, the medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of several books on the topic, including “From Fatigued to Fantastic!” also unlawfully used his Facebook account to promote his products for disease treatment and prevention, the FDA said in the three-page letter. 
More than a dozen of products on the Teitelbaum’s website endfatigue.com are marketed with therapeutic claims – meaning they can prevent, cure or treat disease -- which classifies them as drugs, the FDA said. But the supplements have not been approved as drugs by the FDA and do not have Generally Recognized As Safe or GRAS status.

Continue reading the article here....

Research has shown the benefits of caffeine in liver disease has long been associated with everything from the response to HCV therapy to lowering liver enzyme levels and recently a decreased risk of fibrotic liver disease in NAFLD-nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Also caffeine/coffee may have benefits in protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.

With all this research anyone might assume that consuming caffeine in any form will have a beneficial effect.

Did you know drinking "avitae caffeinated water" lowers the risk of cancer and diseases? You don't believe it, right? Either did the FDA. The consumer must be able to distinguish "hype" from evidence-based science, which isn't always easy to do. 

Last month the FDA sent a warning letter to the company that distributes the caffeinated water; Vitality Distributing, Inc. in Marysville, OH. Again, Facebook and Twitter were both used to link to an article with the following claims:

Women who regularly drink caffeinated coffee have a 20 percent lower risk of depression ...
 
•"It lowers the risk of cancer and diseases"
•"Scares off Alzheimer's disease"

Excerpt from the FDA warning letter;

Dear Mr. Pitzer:
This is to advise you that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed your website at www.myavitae.com  in March 2012 and has determined that your “avitae caffeinated water” product is promoted for conditions that cause the product to be a drug under section 201(g)(1)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)]. The claims on your website establish that this product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. The marketing of your products with these claims violates the Act.

Examples of the claims observed on your website include the following:

• On the webpage titled, "Questions?":

"Q: Is avitae safe?"

"A: ... [S]tudies show that caffeine may reduce chances of many types of cancer, alzheimer's [sic] disease, Parkinson's disease, among others."

•On the webpage titled, "Mommy, Why?" on page 7 of the illustrated story titled, "Mommy, Why Is There Caffeinated Water in Our Refrigerator?":

"Did you know that caffeine could cut down a terrible disease called Alzheimer's by over 50%?

It can also do all sorts of other great things like reduce heart disease in women by over 24%."

We also note that FDA collected promotional material for your product at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West trade show that was held on March 8-11, 2012 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Claims included in the promotional literature collected at the trade show include the following:

•" [A] study of 27,000 women found that those who drank one to three cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of heart disease by 24 percent."

•“Caffeine helps cut brain cancer risk.”

•“Caffeine may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

In addition to the above violations, we have the following comment regarding claims made on your Facebook account (accessible at: https://www.facebook.com/avitae ) and your Twitter (@avitaeusa) account (accessible at http://twitter.com/#!/avitaeusa ). Posts made by the page administrator on November 9, 2011 on both your Facebook Timeline and your Twitter page include a link to an article entitled, “A Coffee A Day May Keep The Doctor Away.” That article makes the following claims:

•"[W]omen who regularly drink caffeinated coffee have a 20 percent lower risk of depression ...
•"It lowers the risk of cancer and diseases"
•"Scares off Alzheimer's disease"

Click Here To View The FDA Warning Letter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March sent a warning letter to Brenda D. Heimann the women behind the website - Healing With Essiac Teawhich. The site suggests using the "Essiac Tea recipe" has benefited people who suffer with following conditions- AIDS, Allergies, Arthritis, Alzheimer's, Asthma, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Circulatory problems, Diabetes, Fibroids, Hemorrhoids, Hypoglycemia, Impotence, Malignancies, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Prostate and urinary problems, Psoriasis, Sleeping Disorders, Thyroid Problems, Ulcers, Warts, and more.

The more? It must be this - "Essiac tea prevents the build up of fatty deposits in the artery walls, heart, kidney, and liver."

Excerpt from the FDA warning letter;

Dear Ms. Heimann:
This is to advise you that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed your website at http://healingwithessiactea.com  in March 2012 and has determined that your "Essiac Tea" product is promoted for conditions that cause the product to be a drug under section 201 (g)(1)(B) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 321(g)(1)(B)]. The therapeutic claims on your website establish that the product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease. The marketing of your product with these claims violates the Act. You may find copies of the Act and FDA's regulations through links on FDA's home page at http://www.fda.gov1.

Examples of some of the claims observed on your website include the following, all of which are from web pages that are available through links from your website's home webpage (http://healingwithessiactea.com ):

On the webpage titled, "Benefits":

• "Essiac tea prevents the build up of fatty deposits in the artery walls, heart, kidney, and liver."

• "Essiac tea regulates cholesterol levels ... "

• "Essiac tea can destroy parasites in the digestive system and throughout the body."

• "Essiac tea reduces and possibly eliminates heavy metal deposits in tissues to reduce inflammation and stiffness."

 Click Here To View FDA Warning Letter

Thymus extract and colloidal silver are sometimes marketed for the treatment of viral hepatitis, but there is currently no research to support their use for this purpose; See the NCCAM fact sheet Colloidal Silver Products.  According to this April 11th 2011 FDA warning letter sent to Dr. Aundrea Adams at the International Institute of Holistic Healing, Inc., Colloidal silver was peddled as a treatment for viral hepatitis, type II diabetes, liver disease, genital herpes, genital warts, AIDS and HIV. 

Excerpt from the FDA warning letter;

Essaic Tonic Liquid Drops:

• "Other Suggested Uses for Essiac: ... AIDS and HIV infections Blood Sugar Problems Type II Diabetes ... Genital herpes viral infections Hepatitis liver disease Virus Infections; Recurrent viral, bacterial or parasitic infections"
• "Protect, Repair, and Detox Liver and All Other Major Organs With This Miraculous Herbal Formula Used for Cancer, Diabetes, Thyroid Disorders, Tumors, Cysts, Growths, Immune Disorders, AIDS, HIV, Kidney Disorders, All Chronic Illnesses ... "

Click Here To View The 2011 FDA Warning To Dr. Aundrea Adams and here to view the Owner/President of Natural Path/Silver Wings, letter.

The FDA warns consumers shopping online for supplements to watch out for sites that use emphatic language with UPPERCASE LETTERS and lots of exclamation points!!!! Beware of such phrases such as: "This is not a hoax" or "Send this to everyone you know."

At this very minute, someone is falling for a health fraud scam. It's happening all around us. They target all of us with promises of quick fixes and painless cures. Watch this video and other videos to learn how to recognize and avoid health fraud scams.

Health Fraud Scams - Be Smart, Be Aware,Be Careful



One of the safest - go to sites - for consumers looking for information on supplements is the trusted "consumer reports" website. In 2010 the site put out a list of the top 12 supplements you should steer clear of; one being colloidal silver.

Don’t assume all supplements are safe

Surveys of consumers have shown that many think the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clears all supplements before they are sold. That’s not the case. The FDA doesn’t generally verify claims made by supplement manufacturers before products reach the market, and federal law doesn’t require dietary supplements to be tested for content, safety, or efficacy. One quality indicator is the USP-Verified mark, which means that products that carry it (including their raw ingredients) have met the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s high standards. Go to USP.org for a list of brands and products. (If you have kids, read our report on vitamins and supplements for children.)

A Consumer Reports investigation in 2010 found 12 supplements you should steer clear of: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe. In addition, be aware that harmful ingredients have been found in many supplements, especially those that claim to boost weight loss, enhance your sex life, or increase muscle mass.



*Consumer beware

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