In coordination with officials in Canada and Mexico, the Federal Trade Commission has charged CSCT, Inc., based in British Columbia, with making false claims that it can treat cancer by using an electromagnetic device to kill cancer cells. The FTC alleges that the company uses its Internet Web site to advertise this treatment to consumers in the United States and elsewhere. According to the FTC, the defendants charge consumers $15,000 up front for several weeks of "treatments" with the electromagnetic device. Consumers must travel at their own expense to Tijuana, Mexico for these treatments. The FTC complaint asserts that the treatments consists of exposing consumers to the "Zoetron machine," a device which purportedly uses a pulsed magnetic field to heat and kill cancer cells. The FTC alleges that the device cannot kill cancer cells, and that the claims made for this therapy are false.
A federal district court in Chicago has issued an injunction prohibiting these claims, freezing the defendants' assets, and ordering the Web site to be shut down. COFEPRIS (part of Secretaria de Salud) in Mexico inspected the clinic in Tijuana and discovered that the defendants were violating Mexican law by using an unapproved treatment. It shut down the office that was providing the treatment.
The FTC developed today's law enforcement action in cooperation with Canada and Mexico as part of the Mexico-U.S.-Canada Health Fraud Work Group (MUCH). MUCH was established in 1994 to strengthen the three countries' ability to prevent cross-border health fraud. The participating agencies include the FTC, Mexico's Secretaria de Salud (Ministry of Health), and Profeco (Federal Agency for Consumer Protection), Canada's Health Canada and Competition Bureau, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA, the lead U.S. agency), the attorney general offices, and state health departments.
"Phoney treatments targeting U.S. consumers with serious illness are a significant concern for the FTC and its partners," said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We will continue to fight to protect consumers from such fraudulent health products and treatments. This case and other cooperative efforts with Canada and Mexico will show fraudulent operators that they will not be able to evade law enforcement by operating in one country and targeting consumers of another."
"To make informed decisions about their care, patients need truthful information based on the best medical science," said Dr. Mark McClellan, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. "The FDA strongly supports today's action to crack down on those who would deliberately mislead patients. We are firmly committed to continuing our work with the FTC and our international partners to address such threats to the public's health."
According to the FTC complaint, the defendants claim that their "Zoetron Therapy" or "Cell Specific Cancer Therapy" can be used successfully against several types of cancers including breast, lung, brain, and liver cancers. The defendants claim that their magnetic therapy works because cancer cells supposedly contain more iron than normal cells. They claim that, using a pulsed magnetic field, their Zoetron Therapy causes this extra iron to oscillate, heat up, and ultimately kill the cancer cells without harming healthy cells. They tout the Zoetron Therapy as an alternative to traditional cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, which harm both cancerous and healthy cells. The FTC alleges that the defendants' treatment does not work.
The FTC asserts that, on some occasions, consumers have foregone more traditional cancer therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation and undertaken the CSCT therapy instead. The defendants tell interested consumers to complete an "application" that CSCT's doctors supposedly review to determine if the consumer is eligible for the magnetic therapy. Consumers then wire $15,000 to CSCT in Canada and arrange to go to the defendants' clinic in Tijuana, Mexico for treatments that last up to eight weeks. During the consumer's stay at the CSCT clinic, the defendants' staff claims to assess the consumer's medical condition. As time goes by, the clinic may tell consumers that tests show that the Zoetron Therapy is working and the cancer has been destroyed.
According to the FTC, after leaving the CSCT clinic and consulting with their healthcare provider at home, consumers have learned that not only has the Zoetron Therapy failed to improve their condition, but that their condition actually has deteriorated. In some cases, the FTC alleges, the patient's condition has progressed beyond the point where it can be treated effectively by other means and the patient dies soon after leaving the CSCT clinic.
The FTC's complaint names CSCT, Inc., a Canadian company based in Naramata, British Columbia; CSCT, Ltd., a British company based in London, England; and their officers, John Leslie Armstrong and Michael John Reynolds, as defendants. Both corporate defendants have acted as a common enterprise.
The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago on February 6, 2003.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs