FDA Cracks Down on Fraudulent Cancer Cures



We all have patients who are vulnerable to miracle cures.  Some credit vitamin supplements with the disappearance of suspicious breast masses.  Others believe herbal tea labels that promise to promote bone or prostate health.  We cannot help but shake our heads as we hear how patients, suffering from or fearful of certain types of cancer, devote disproportionate amounts of their incomes towards the purchase of products such as Coral Calcium Colostrum or Bladder Cancer Tea Formula.  We wonder if they are backed by credible research.  Are there legitimate studies to support the safely and efficacy of these cancer "cures"?  How do we talk to our patients about being savvy consumers in a market that is largely unregulated?

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration took action against the purveyors of so-called cancer treatments.  As of mid-June 2008, the makers of products said to cure or prevent cancer without solid, rigorous evidence of these findings will have to alter their labeling or stop selling the items. 

The FDA has compiled a list of "125 Fake Cancer 'Cures' Consumers Should Avoid'.  This list is posted at http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/factsheets/fakecancercures.html.  The FDA is not issuing the warnings for confirmed safety concerns.  Rather, the agency feels that false advertising on the part of the makers of shark cartilage or Miracle Mushroom Blend is dangerously misleading consumers.

While most experts support scientific investigation into medicinal benefits of dietary supplements and teas, the FDA stresses that these products are not drugs.  Pharmaceuticals endorsed by the FDA have been subjected to a comprehensive, multi-year testing, trail, and approval process.  The cancer "cures" that have been targeted by the new FDA warnings have not undergone this process.

Twenty-three manufacturers were issued warnings by the FDA.  These companies have been told that they need to "stop asserting that their products will work like drugs or face seizures - and possibly criminal charges as well," according to a June 18, 2008 article written by David Brown and published in the Washington Post. The medical community worries that cancer patients will substitute unproven cancer-curing supplements for drugs whose effectiveness and safety has been thoroughly studied.

The initial response has been optimistic.  Several manufacturers quickly altered the language on their websites in order to comply with FDA regulations.  The maker of Miracle Mushroom Blend, for example, allowed that he is not a doctor and that he is open to the changes suggested by the FDA. 

When nurses ask patients about prescriptive or over-the-counter medications, we want them to be comfortable disclosing everything that they are taking.  However, it is important to remember that, as patient advocates, we need to offer proper evidence-based information.  When faced with someone singing the praises of a cancer "cure", the best approach is to educate clients about responsible labeling.  We can steer clients towards the user-friendly FDA website and we can report unsubstantiated cancer treatment claims to the FDA for further investigation. 



Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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