Report finds supplements make illegal claims to cure or treat diseases, with NO evidence

This is rather outrageous and should be a gigantic news story. These dreadful products should be off the shelves.

Report: Some Dietary Supplements Illegally Labeled – US News and World Report.

Dozens of weight loss and immune system supplements on the market are illegally labeled and lack the recommended scientific evidence to back up their purported health claims, government investigators warn in a new review of the $20 billion supplement industry.

The report, being released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, found that 20 percent of the 127 weight loss and immune-boosting supplements investigators purchased online and in retail stores across the country carried labels that made illegal claims to cure or treat disease.

Some products went so far as to state that the supplements could cure or prevent diabetes or cancer, or that they could help people with HIV or AIDS, which is strictly prohibited under federal law.

Consumers may not just be wasting their money on pills or tablets, but they could be endangering their health if they take a supplement in place of a drug thinking it will have the same effect, the report concluded.

Get this! “One company submitted a 30-year-old handwritten college term paper to substantiate its claim, while others included news releases, advertisements and links to Wikipedia or an online dictionary…” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If these products make HEALTH CLAIMS, why aren’t they held to the same standards as pharmaceuticals?

Here is why this stuff occurs:

Federal regulations do not require the US FDA to review the scientific evidence for these products and their purported health benefits before they hit the market. This piece has some background on the law. The DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) of 1994 had more to do with appeasing the electorate than in the science behind the claims. Dietary supplements are all hype and almost NO substance.

The FDA is asking for more oversight power for these products. Will that work? Simply put: it is foolish to waste money on this stuff.

  5 comments for “Report finds supplements make illegal claims to cure or treat diseases, with NO evidence

  1. Adam
    October 4, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    I was amazed during a US trip of the lies these things put on their labels. It seems all you need do is lie in big letters and then stick a little * next to it which leads to in small print that “this statement has not been evaluated by the FDA” or similar to get away with it. The big pharmacy chains are complicit in all this too, gladly selling snakeoil and producing their generic versions in some cases.

    The US political system has a lot to answer for in the way it gives a free pass to quackery. The supplement industry basically buys politicians so that legislation if it is passed at all is watered down or includes so many exemptions to be meaningless.

    The EU has been far better at cracking down on the supplement industry, banning some products but it’s still easy enough to find. It’s instructive to read the blurb on the back and count how many weasel statements are employed to imply health giving powers without saying it. It’s all stuff like “X is a natural remedy which has been used for hundreds of years and is believed by many people to boost their wellbeing”.

  2. Bob
    October 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Renault: I am shocked, shocked to learn that there is gambling going on here.

  3. F89
    October 4, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    I’ve always wondered: if these things were actually capable of doing what they claim, why aren’t they getting front page coverage, and being hailed as the true miracle that they are?
    I truly hope that this isn’t a suprise to anyone. (the bogus helath claims)

  4. Adam
    October 5, 2012 at 4:48 AM

    @F89 the reason for that I suspect is there are a lot of gullible people in the world who (perhaps rightly) trust products to fulfill the claims they make on the label. Thus there is a billion dollar industry in weight loss pills which don’t work at all.

    There is also a strong alternative health movement which is extremely distrustful of science based medicine and “big pharma” and a lot of this quackery is extremely appealing to them.

  5. Gary
    October 8, 2012 at 5:34 AM

    Note the language of many of these product really doesn’t promise anything.
    Typically, it’s “help support the immune system”.

    What does “help support” mean? It’s a double qualifier, and promises nothing.

    Note also that many of these claims are followed by the Quack Miranda Warning
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Quack_Miranda_Warning to give them legal cover

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