FDA Warns Companies to Stop Selling Illegal Cancer Treatments

Written By:Stacy Simon
seven containers holding various illegally sold cancer treatment products

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned 14 US-based companies to stop selling products they falsely claim will prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer. The products named by the FDA include pills, creams, ointments, oils, drops, syrups, teas, and diagnostic devices. They are most often being marketed and sold on websites and social media sites, and also at swap meets and flea markets.

“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. “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 health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

The warning letters tell the companies to change or remove the fraudulent claims on their websites. If they don’t, the FDA says it may take legal action that could include the seizing of products and criminal prosecution.

Over the past 10 years, the FDA has sent more than 90 warning letters to companies selling hundreds of products making fake claims about cancer. But selling online has never been easier. And while the letters have resulted in some companies either discontinuing the products or stopping the fake claims, many others have simply changed their names or moved to new websites. The FDA urges consumers to be on the alert for unproven treatments and to talk to their health care providers about anything they are taking.

How to spot a fake

Legitimate drugs and other medical products for treating cancer have to get FDA approval or clearance before they can be legally advertised and sold. But there will always be companies trying to make money by taking advantage of patients. And the fact is, even though they claim to be safe, unproven products can harm people. They may contain dangerous ingredients and they may delay or interfere with proven, beneficial treatments.

The FDA says the following phrases, often used by fake cancer products, are red flags that should warn consumers not to buy them:

  • Treats all forms of cancer
  • Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors
  • Shrinks malignant tumors
  • Selectively kills cancer cells
  • More effective than chemotherapy
  • Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact
  • Cures cancer

The fake claims also extend to cancer treatments intended for pets; for diseases including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s; and for help with weight loss, sexual performance, and memory.

The best way to protect yourself is to discuss any health product with your provider before you take it.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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