Measures are Part of Coordinated Effort by United States, Mexico, and Canada
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working with government agencies in Mexico and Canada, have launched a drive to stop deceptive Internet advertisements and sales of products misrepresented as cures or treatments for diabetes. The ongoing joint campaign has so far included approximately 180 warning letters and other advisories sent to online outlets in the three countries.
“We will continue working with our partners in the U.S. and internationally to make sure scammers have no place to hide,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
“The Internet can be a great source of information, but it also is a billboard for ads that promise miracle cures for diabetes and other serious diseases. Our advice to consumers: ‘Be smart, be skeptical’ when evaluating health claims online.”
“We will not tolerate practices that raise false hopes and bilk consumers of precious health care dollars, ” said Margaret O’K. Glavin, FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. “Diabetes requires effective treatments and aggressive management, not bogus and unproven products.”
The joint diabetes initiative to stop commercial sale of fraudulent therapies originated with a Web surf for “hidden traps” by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), an organization of law enforcement authorities, members of the Mexico, United States, and Canada Health Fraud Working Group (MUCH), and the attorneys general offices of Alaska, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. MUCH, which consists of regulatory officials from health, consumer and competition protection agencies in the three North American countries, had previously conducted a campaign against fraudulent weight-loss products.
Using the results of the Internet sweep, FTC sent warning letters for deceptive ads to 84 domestic and 7 Canadian Web sites targeting U.S. consumers, and referred an additional 21 sites to other foreign governments. About a quarter of the firms have already changed their claims or removed their pages from the Internet, and several others are in contact with FTC.
Today, FDA announced it has issued warning letters to 24 firms marketing dietary supplement products with claims to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate diabetes (see link to Warning Letters at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/dialist.html). The FDA letters warn firms that failure to promptly correct the violations may result in enforcement action without further notice, which may include seizure of violative products and/or injunctions against the manufacturers and distributors.
FTC is also announcing today a new consumer education campaign to teach consumers how to avoid phony diabetes cures. The materials encourage consumers to “Be smart, be skeptical!” and will be available in English, Spanish, and French. One component is a “teaser” Web site available at http://wemarket4u.net/glucobate/index.html. At first glance, the site appears to be advertising a cure for diabetes called Glucobate, but when consumers click for more information on ordering the product, it reveals information about avoiding ads for phony cure-alls in the future. The new education materials, including a bookmark and consumer alert, are being introduced in time for Diabetes Awareness Month in November. The American Dietetic Association has agreed to help disseminate the information.
FDA has developed a strategy to focus its enforcement efforts in the area of dietary supplements, and today’s announcement is one important action under that strategy. The strategy was designed to address illegal dietary supplement ingredients and ensure integrity and truthful labeling of dietary supplements. One emphasis is on claims aimed at patients with serious diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Within the last twelve months, the agency has sent more than 100 warning letters and other advisories to Internet firms and has seized products at one firm.
In addition, the agency maintains special Web sites, in English and Spanish, which amplify the agency’s counsel to consumers to check with their doctor, nurse or pharmacist before trying any new health care product. These materials cover a broad range of subjects of special interest to patients with diabetes (see http://www.fda.gov/diabetes/; http://www.fda.gov/diabetes/pills.html; http://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/diabetes.html; and http://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/sdiabetes.html), as well as more general health care information.
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 in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), 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/ftc/complaint.htm. 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.
FDA protects and advances the public health by regulating the nation’s food supply (except for meat and poultry, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture), as well as all human drugs, biological products such as vaccines, medical devices, tissues for transplantation, devices that emit radiation, cosmetics, and animal drugs.
Federal Trade Commission