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Get Fed Up: Report Medical Quackery to the FDA

by Brian Dunning, Jan 14 2010

fda101Here is a link that you’re all going to want to bookmark:

Selling crap online, and claiming that it has medical value, is illegal. This is just and proper, because it’s wrong to con sick people out of money. Yet it’s so profitable to do so that it remains a flourishing business. And those sellers who may genuinely believe their product helps people also deserve to be turned in and prosecuted. They’ve heard the research already, they’ve just chosen to ignore it. Well, they may find it a little harder to ignore a warning letter from the Food & Drug Administration.

This online form can be filled out to report online sales of fraudulent products that make specific health claims. If you claim that your product diagnoses, treats, prevents, or cures any disease, then your product is classified as a drug; and it’s illegal to sell unapproved drugs in the United States. Therefore, any web site that sells any form of alternative medicine, or  non-FDA approved gadgets or contraptions, and makeS specific medical claims about it, are breaking the law, and are fair game for this form to be used.

The form is short. Just be sure to state your complaint specifically and succinctly. An unapproved product must be offered for sale over the Internet, and a specific health claim must be made about it.

Bookmark it. Use it. Protect your neighbors from con artists and vultures.

27 Responses to “Get Fed Up: Report Medical Quackery to the FDA”

  1. Thomas Goodwater says:

    I’m not an American… do you happen to have any links that could be useful to Europeans?

  2. w_nightshade says:

    Thanks, Brian. Resources like this need to be made widely known and available to those of us interested in seeing medical fraud reduced.

  3. johnc says:

    To clarify, if it’s FDA approved but doesn’t work, then the link is useless?

    Also if it’s not FDA approved, but is effective, then the link is useless too?

    • Max says:

      If it’s FDA approved, and there’s a serious problem with it, the web page links to MedWatch.

      If it’s not FDA approved, it can’t legally claim to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, regardless whether or not it’s effective.

  4. Trimegistus says:

    This is a great resource! Now I know where to send those stupid acai berry spams I keep getting.

  5. Max says:

    Bear in mind that homeopathy is FDA regulated, but not approved as safe and effective the way drugs are, so homeopathic products must list the diseases for which they’re indicated. For example, Zicam can legally claim to be a “cold remedy” just because it’s “homeopathic”, not because the FDA reviewed its safety and efficacy and approved it as a drug. Crazy, isn’t it.

  6. johnc says:

    It seems the FDA have enough on their plate dealing with the lies of the conventional medicine industry:

  7. To further clarify jurisdiction:

    The FDA can take action if the health claims specifically mention a disease.

    However, health claims that do not mention a disease, but rather only make “structure/function” claims – like the product will “boost the immune system” or “support blood health” or “detoxify your body” are not FDA regulated. Such claims, however, must include a disclaimer that the claims have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Lack of this disclaimer is a matter for the FDA.

    For all other health claims that you believe are fraudulent (but not under the FDA jurisdiction I outlined above) the agency to contact is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    The FTC is actually much more active in investigating health fraud, and is more likely to be the appropriate agency for those Acai spams you get.

  8. Nigel Thomas says:

    In the UK
    Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

  9. MadScientist says:

    Now if the regulators would only harden up on the issue of insinuated claims such as the ubiquitous “Research has shown that vitamins are essential to a healthy body.”

  10. Jason says:

    I have a related question to which I can’t seem to get an answer. Maybe you can help.

    I have, for the past year, been trying to report a couple of local chiropractors for making false claims on their websites (helping with ADHD, infantile colic, etc… you know the drill). I started with the FTC, who said they need multiple complaints in order to do anything about it. I then, on their recommendation, moved on to the State Chiropractic board, who told me they didn’t see a problem (surprise, surprise – I love self-regulating industries), even though I pointed out to them exactly which of their regulations this violated. I then spent several months working with the Attorney General, who finally sent me a letter that basically said they were siding with the Chiro board and to quit bothering them (not in those exact words, mind you).

    Does anybody know where I can go from here? Or should I stop trying to bang my head against this particular wall? If I am successful with these two particular “doctors”, I was going to widen the net. I know they are all busy, but I am very frustrated that not a single consumer protection agency seems to be interested in protecting the consumer in this case.

  11. c says:

    I would start with obtaining research on pros or cons of said treatment, before sounding any alarms. Have you done that? By the way, they are Doctors, as they’ve acquired a D.C. degree and passed the necessary state boards. When you use quotations you are implying subjectiveness and I do believe this site promotes objectiveness.


    • Jason says:

      Plenty of research has been done on the efficacy of chiropractic. There is no scientific evidence that it does anything but temporary relief of back pain (which can also be obtained through physical therapy, by the way).

      In my correspondence with said agencies, I did include several references to peer-reviewed, scientific studies.

      By using quotes, I am indeed showing my generalized opinion about chiropractors, and I will not apologize for it. Granted, there may be a handful of honest chiropractors out there, who actually believe they are doing good (again, I point to the fact that there are actual medical procedures that will accomplish the same ends), but the fact remains that many of these people do spinal manipulations on children (including infants) whose spines are not yet fully formed. That, to me, is despicable and it needs to stop.

      Let me ask you something: If psychics somehow were able to open a college that granted a “Doctor of Psychic Ability” degree, would you call them doctors with no qualms? The large majority of chiropractors are NOT doing anything with any basis in Science Based Medicine. So I am skeptical of the title “doctor”.

  12. Mark T says:

    The priorities of you folks in the “skeptic” community never fail to amaze me. The FDA is a joke. Corporate criminals killed a bunch of people with poisoned drugs from China (Heparin) and you’re worried about Chiropractors?! How about “Exxtenze” or whatever it’s called. The FDA could have saved thousands of lives by approving a thermal imaging technology for breast exams; instead they wrecked the company (but somebody in India already pirated it so you can go over there and get it.) Isn’t free trade great?
    Couldn’t some of you apply your obviously formidable intellects to something more important? Like the destruction of our economy?
    Some good places to start. Hey, isn’t it cool the way Obama and his smartass Harvard economists fixed everything?

    • Safe-Keeper says:

      Every time someone takes a good, detailed, well-researched shot at alternative medicine, at least several alternative “believers” reply “But what about conventional medicine?!”. Can you say “red herring”?

  13. Soulvei says:

    Thank you for these helpful links. I have already used them to report a website selling dangerous hormone creams as ‘cosmetics’. Do you have any idea where I might report a naturopath who has injured one of her clients?