FDA Takes Aim At Fake Cancer Cures

One product’s description claims it can “dissolve cancers and tumors"

Illustration: Tara Jacoby
Apr 25, 2017 at 4:22 PM ET

The Food and Drug Administration is calling out more than a dozen supplement and herbal product makers for misleading their customers and marketing fake cancer cures.

On Tuesday, the agency announced it had sent warning letters to 14 companies, accusing them of illegally selling more than 65 products claimed to “prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure cancer.” These include creams, pills, teas, and even devices claimed to find tumors via infrared radiation, advertised to both people and pets. In addition, the FDA also singled out four companies that sell iffy treatments via less strongly worded online advisory letters.

The warning letters advise the companies to immediately correct or remove any fraudulent claims within fifteen days.

The products, sporting names like Vitalica, Circulatory Detox & Support Syrup, and the blunt Skin Cancer Treatment, are easily found and purchasable through their respective company’s website or social media feed. And aside from claiming to fight cancer, some of the products are advertised to treat brain injuries, malaria, and depression.

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One product’s description, the herbal remedy inkberry sold by Everything, claims it can “dissolve cancers and tumors.” Another, the Genital Wart Remover & Relief sold by Hawk Dok Natural Salve, LLC, says it kills “the roots and pulls the virus out.” And another company, the The Vitamin C Foundation, says its vitamin products can kill drug-resistant tuberculosis and even the Ebola virus.

“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 Office of Enforcement and Import Operations in the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, in a 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.”

Outrageous as some of these claims may be, many doctors and public health experts believe that agencies like the FDA are ill-equipped to effectively regulate supplements and herbal products, thank to sparse resources and lax guidelines established by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 over what qualifies as flagrant fraud and deception.

So even if all of these products are taken off the shelf, and the occasional fake cancer cure peddler is sent to jail, it seems likely there are still hundreds more just like them out there, waiting to be bought by the eternally hopeful.