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Signs of bogus pills

Soap box time, according to one of my favourite personalities, after Ken Husbands off course!

Yes, I am going on my soap box, as there is something that is bugging me and I must get it off my chest.

Health fraud scams have been around for hundreds of years with the snake oil salesmen of old becoming the deceptive, high-tech marketers of today. They prey on people’s desires for easy solutions to difficult health problems — from losing weight to curing serious diseases like cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration of the United States defines a health product as “fraudulent” if it is deceptively promoted as being effective against a disease or health condition but has not been scientifically proven safe and effective for that purpose.

Scammers promote their products through newspapers, magazines, TV infomercials and cyberspace. You can find health fraud scams in retail stores and on countless websites, in pop-up ads and spam, on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and even your buddy next door.

Health scams can do more than waste your money. They can cause serious injury or even death, says Gary Coody, R.Ph. FDA’s national health fraud coordinator.

“Using unproven treatments can delay getting a potentially life-saving diagnosis and medication that actually works. Also, fraudulent products sometimes contain hidden drug ingredients that can be harmful when unknowingly taken by consumers.”

Coody says fraudulent products often make claims related to:

* weight loss

* sexual performance

* memory loss

* Serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimers.

I know that I may be accused of having invested so much in medicines and modern medicine, after all I am a pharmacist, that my judgment will be clouded, and that what comes next on this page is an advertisement for big medicine.

Nothing is further from the truth, although I will admit to being a scientist, so therefore I will tend to recognise clinical trials over “John from New York” saying how great this product is.

Still on the soap box, let’s look at the weight loss area. The weight loss industry is a massive money earner and countless people have lost weight — in their pockets following the latest diet or product. My idea is if these products really worked, there would only be one on the market.

At least once yearly, there will be a big “this is it” weight loss product to come on the market and all of them or most of them rely on John Public to be the advocate and the salesperson. Here we have persons, who until yesterday never heard about leptin or anything so, never knew the difference between hypo or hypertension, but now can come and try to convince you that this new weight loss product is the “bomb” and not only will it lose weight for you but will also maintain healthy blood levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose.

What makes the selling of these weight loss products harmful is the studied response to a simple question as to how does product “X” help with diabetes.

A typical answer is — “Product X slim is a benefit to Diabetic/hypertensives because it works by reducing/balancing your blood sugar levels safely and naturally, by controlling the release of insulin in the body and reduces insulin resistance, by allowing fat to be absorbed using fibre matrix binds which aids in burning off the fat naturally, improves your cholesterol levels (both HDL & LDL), and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lowers your triglycerides, and reduces the risk of heart disease & stroke, increases their energy level, which allows them to get active again with the inclusion of vital multi-vitamins”.

On top of that it promotes optimal fat loss and allows for weight loss, and this is important since weight management goes a long way to fighting both conditions.

Initially, medications can still be taken with bios life slim, with advise from your medical professional, some users have stopped using traditional medications after three weeks of using “Product X slim”.

Hyperbole at its best, a whole lot said, saying nothing, leaving the questioner none the wiser.

There is one product that claims to:

* Maintain healthy blood sugar and glucose levels

* Promote optimal fat loss

* Reduce triglyceride levels

* Reduce appetite and cravings

* Increases energy

* Promote natural cleansing

* Improve digestion

* Improve your immune system

We are told that all of the above is possible because of a patented fibre matrix. It may be patented, but why is beyond reason, because all of the above is what fibre does when it’s taken.

Fibre will bind fat, will slow the digestive process and reduce insulin spikes, resulting in — you guessed it — healthy blood sugar and glucose levels. Ask anyone who has used a fibre called oat bran, what it has done to their cholesterol levels or even been prescribed cholestyramine another fibre product.

I have no doubt that the above product can do what it lists, but that is like saying drinking Perrier water reduces dehydration and causes you to urinate more frequently, causing your bladder to be emptied faster and your lips to be wet. All true but you can get the same from drinking a glass of Canadian juice or water.

FDA says these are some signs that a product or service may be bogus:

* One product does it all. Be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of diseases. A New York firm claimed its products marketed as dietary supplements could treat or cure senile dementia, brain atrophy, atherosclerosis, kidney dysfunction, gangrene, depression, osteoarthritis, dysuria, and lung, cervical and prostate cancer. In October 2012, at FDA’s request, US marshals seized these products.

* Personal testimonials. Success stories, such as: “It cured my diabetes” or “My tumours are gone, are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.

* Quick fixes. Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, even with legitimate products. Beware of language such as, “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or “eliminates skin cancer in days”.

* All natural. Some plants found in nature (such as poisonous mushrooms) can kill when consumed. Moreover, FDA has found numerous products promoted as “all natural” but that contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients or even untested active artificial ingredients.

* Miracle cure. Alarms should go off when you see this claim or others like it such as, “new discovery”, “scientific breakthrough” or “secret ingredient”. If a real cure for a serious disease were discovered, it would be widely reported through the media and prescribed by health professionals — not buried in print ads, TV infomercials or on Internet sites.

* Conspiracy theories. Claims like “The pharmaceutical industry and the government are working together to hide information about a miracle cure” are always untrue and unfounded. These statements are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common sense questions about the so-called miracle cure.

As I move off the soap box, one other bit of advice is to be careful if you are told that health professionals endorse the product, and that the FDA endorses. The FDA does not endorse “dietary” supplements. Some people endorse what makes them money.

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