Consumers beware! Health fraud scams abound and these scammers peddling dietary supplements often target advertising to people who prefer more herbal or so-called natural remedies, warns the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Just because a product is labeled as natural doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe. It may be contaminated or contain potentially harmful chemicals or hidden drug ingredients, the agency warns.
For example, many products that claim to help people lose weight contain hidden and dangerous prescription ingredients such as sibutramine. Sibutramine was the active ingredient in Meridia, a drug that was banned from the market in October 2010 after it was linked to an increased risk of heart problems and strokes.
The law does not require that manufacturers of dietary supplements get FDA approval before marketing their products. So consumers should use common sense when choosing to take them. Here are some tips for identifying fraudulent products:
- “One product does it all.” Be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of diseases.
- Personal testimonials. Success stories such as “It cured my diabetes,” or “My tumors are gone,” are easy to make up and are not a substitution for scientific evidence.
- Quick fixes. Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, even with legitimate products. Beware of language such as “lose 30 pounds in 30 days,” or “eliminates skin cancer in days.”
- “All natural.” Some plants found in nature can kill if you eat them. Plus, FDA has found products promoted as “all natural” that contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients.
- Miracle cure. Alarms should go off when you see this claim or others like it such as “new discovery” or “scientific breakthrough.” A real cure for a serious disease would be all over the media and prescribed by doctors — not buried in print ads, TV infomercials, or on Internet sites.
- FDA-Approved. Domestic or imported dietary supplements are not approved by FDA.
Any side effects experienced after taking dietary supplements should be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program at www.FDA.gov/MedWatch/Report.htm.