WASHINGTON D.C. (CN) – “People have been selling snake oil since the advent of medicine” said the FTC’s consumer protection chief on Thursday, acknowledging that fake cancer cures are rampant and announcing a modest effort to curb those who prey on the desperate.
Announcing the website and the criminal pursuit of a few sellers, Lydia Parnes, the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection largely deferred the responsibility of recognizing bogus cures to the public Thursday.
“Our greatest concern is the health risks incurred when cancer patients forgo traditional treatment in pursuit of non-traditional treatment” said Parnes.
When asked why the FTC is pursuing only 11 companies in spite of the continuing abundance of false medical advertisements, Parnes admitted that the FTC could not pursue all cases and said the proliferation of fake cures was the reason for the informational website.
Six companies are being prosecuted for falsely advertising cures and six companies are discussing a settlement. Nu-Gen Nutrition, Inc., the largest company pursued by the FTC, sold $800,000 worth of product, and has agreed to pay $250,000 in redress.
The other businesses being investigaged by the FTC 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, Westberry Enterprises, Inc., Jim Clark’s All Natural Cancer Therapy, Bioque Technologies, Inc., Holly A. Bacon d/b/a Cleansing Time Pro and Premium-essiac-tea-4less.
After searching the internet for scams, the FTC sent warning letters between August of last year and January of 2008 to 112 websites making false claims. Less than a third of the websites removed their claims, said Parnes, but the rest as many as 80 businesses ignored the letters and continue to make bogus claims to people desperate for anything that would stave off death.
On the FTC’s website, a video warns against testimonials from paid actors and technical jargon, saying that “scientific talk doesn’t guarantee scientific proof”, and urges patients to “talk to your doctor.”