Phone app marketers take advantage of desire for easy health fix

People really believe their phone can cure acne, seasonal affective disorder and enlarge breasts.

Many health apps are based on flimsy science at best, and they often do not work.

When the iTunes store began offering apps that used cellphone light to cure acne, federal investigators knew that hucksters had found a new spot in cyberspace.

“We realized this could be a medium for mischief,” said James Prunty, a Federal Trade Commission attorney who helped pursue the government’s only cases against health-app developers last year, shutting down two acne apps.

Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has been mired in a debate over how to oversee these high-tech products, and government officials have not pursued any other app developers for making medically dubious claims. Now, both the iTunes store and the Google Play store are riddled with health apps that experts say do not work and in some cases could even endanger people.

In an examination of 1,500 health apps that cost money and have been available since June 2011, the center found that more than one out of five claims to treat or cure medical problems. Of the 331 therapeutic apps, nearly 43 percent relied on cellphone sound for treatments. Another dozen used the light of the cellphone, and two others used phone vibrations. Scientists say none of these methods could possibly work for the conditions in question.

Health apps aren’t the only scams sold for your phone. You can get silly psychic reading, astrology and ghost hunting apps too.

This article is a long expose of these snake oil scams that distort and oversimplify the idea of a cure. Who would fall for this? LOTS of people do. If they are only $0.99, people say, what the heck, why not try. Amplifed by the many hundreds or thousands not only allow hucksters to recoup their costs but encourage more apps like that. Apple, who allows such apps in the store, is avoiding any responsibility. Is this at least partly their responsibility? And is the trend ANY different from people falling for infomercials, ads and products marketed on shelves that promise the same quick fix? There is no area of consumerism where critical thinking should not be applied. Marketers take advantage of people’s gullibility.

  1 comment for “Phone app marketers take advantage of desire for easy health fix

  1. Rand
    November 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    And here I was thinking the only way cell phones were supposed to affect your health was by causing brain tumors….

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