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FDA Cautions Consumers Against Cancer "Cures"

Published: June 17, 2008
Filed at 2:55 p.m. ET

Skip to next paragraph WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Consumers should beware of products sold on the Internet that claim to cure cancer, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday, threatening penalties against more than two dozen companies selling creams, tea and pills as treatments for the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said a variety of Web sites sell such products, which can harm patients with potentially risky ingredients or by keeping them from seeking proven therapies.

"FDA is very concerned consumers will purchase these products on the Internet and use them instead of products that have been proven safe and effective," said Michael Levy, head of the FDA's Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance.

Levy and other agency officials said their warning letters targeted roughly 125 products that claim to treat, cure or prevent cancer. The FDA has not received any reports from consumers who have fallen ill taking them, officials said, but called on the companies to stop making promises.

They could not say how many such products have been sold. Some included various ingredients such as bloodroot, shark cartilage, coral calcium and various mushrooms, according to the agency.

Representatives for the American Herbal Products Association said such ingredients are not harmful but that manufacturers of products that include them are not allowed by law to make medical claims.

"These companies are making drug claims and it is simply illegal to market an unapproved new drug," said Michael McGuffin, president of the association which represents a variety of herbal product makers.

Cancer is a condition that comes in many forms and causes cells to grow out of control. Approved treatments include such methods as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other medications.

"FDA expects prompt and complete corrective action," said David Elder, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement. "Firms that don't heed the warnings that we've delivered and other firms marketing similar unapproved products may face further regulatory action."

The agency can levy fines, impose injunctions and seize products, among other penalties.

FDA officials conceded that the Internet makes it easy for companies to shut down one site and start up another. They also said it can be difficult to track down who actually operates a website, which can be registered in one country but run in another.

The agency listed the companies targeted by the letters on its website at:

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Will Dunham and Sandra Maler)



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