Amazon.com accused of peddling bogus cures for cancer

A search at Amazon.com under the search term “cancer” produces a litany of cancer cures: herbal Graviola tablets, Essiac tea capsules, AHCC (a mushroom extract), selenium (a trace mineral), hemp oil, apricot kernels which are said to be a source of vitamin B17 (laetrile, aka cyanide), sunscreens which block UV rays and are said to prevent skin cancer and black salve that is also purported to cure skin cancer.

A report published in The Sun newspaper (UK) accuses Amazon.com of “dangerous and misleading” advertisements and “peddling bogus miracle cancer cures” as well as unproven remedies for autism and HIV. [The Sun September 6, 2016]

Also included in The Sun report are electronic “zappers” that claim to treat HIV.

Yet another questionable product offered for sale at Amazon.com UK are “Dr. Reckeweg R17 Tumor Drops, a homeopathic remedy.

There is usually some scientific evidence or rationale that these products have curative biological activity.   Often that evidence has only been demonstrated in test tubes and sometimes in laboratory mice.

Said to prey upon the fears of patients facing incurable diseases, the question remains, what are desperate patients to do when facing a life-threatening disease that has no proven cure?

Now that we are pointing fingers

Modern medicine is not without its own cancer charades.

Frequently oncologists offer palliative care that relieves symptoms or shrinks tumors for a time, but are not curative.  Published reports reveal that oncologists sometimes use placebos, which are almost never curative and may produce reduction in pain or improve appetite.  [Journal National Cancer Institute 2003]  In a survey, 27% of oncologists said they would prescribe an innocuous treatment if a patient who would not benefit from treatment but demands something be done (in essence, a placebo).  [Oncologists ethics report 2014]

In the 1980s nearly every academic medical center in the US and Europe as well as private hospitals offered bone marrow transplantation for the treatment of solid tumors.  An estimated 30,000 women in the US with breast cancer received bone marrow transplants between 1985 and 1998, based upon uncontrolled studies.  The book FALSE HOPE describes this ruse that was perpetrated on fearful breast cancer patients.  [New England Journal Medicine Sept 6, 2007]

So ineffective or unproven (bogus) cancer cures can be offered by prestigious medical centers with all their high-technology trappings to serve as a magnet for desperate cancer patients and get away with it while there is outrage over largely harmless “cures” offered at Amazon.com.

However, two wrongs do not make something right.  So further explanation is needed.

None make overt cancer cure label claims, but customers do!

None of the alleged products posted for sale at Amazon.com included labeling that mentions cancer.  However, cancer is certainly the topic at hand on discussion boards and product reviews for Graviola, Essiac tea and AHCC, for example.

The validity of these Amazon.com ratings has been brought into question. [Time Magazine April 28, 2016]  Are some of these testimonials posted by shills for the manufacturer or distributor?  Who knows?

Amazon.com does make an effort to confirm those who offer a testimonial actually bought the product in question.

Who holds the moral high ground?

The Sun online newspaper is no paragon of truth itself either.  It panders to readers with sensational articles that border on gossip or public curiosity or even perversion with various forms of female nudity to attract readers.  So they are just hyping their story as part of their sensationalist journalism.

Can’t consumers ferret out the truth for themselves?

A larger question is whether viewers of these online testimonials are savvy enough to evaluate them for themselves.   I would guess most consumers feel they want to read consumer comments and decide for themselves.

Consumers aren’t totally dumb.  Why presume they are easily misled and censor out products that simply haven’t undergone the political approval process?

This reporter has said it many times, that there is sufficient scientific data to justify the use of inexpensive remedies for cancer which include high-fat/no-sugar/now-carbohydrate diets (aka ketogenic diet), vitamin C, vitamin D, resveratrol, garlic and other natural remedies.  These modalities have as much a chance of working to prevent or even cure cancer as expensive FDA-approved cancer treatments, which only add a few months of survival.

One convincing study shows chemotherapy can only be attributed to a 5-year cure for cancer 2% of the time.  [Clinical Oncology Dec 2004]  What is the chance any of the above-mentioned natural therapies can beat chemo?

There are a number of valid natural cancer remedies that are being overlooked. [Knowledge of Health] What are the odds they might be equal to or better than toxic/marginally effective chemotherapy?

Cancer cures that don’t require a doctor’s prescription, that are economical and not fraught with the typical side effects experienced with modern cancer therapy are not likely to be recommended or used by oncologists.  If doctors and drug companies are going to get cut out of the equation, the public will never find out about these cures.  The FDA is simply a governmental agency that protects turf for doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

Censorship by another name

Online advertising for various health-related products often skirts around FDA and FTC guidelines for advertising that are enforced on other news media (TV, major news press).  [FDA.gov; FTC.gov] But neither Google Adwords nor Amazon discussion boards censor what is said in regard to ad claims about cancer.

However, these “customer reviews” as they are called at Amazon.com are certainly not out of bounds.  If these product-related discussion boards or product ratings were posted at a non-commercial site they could not be halted under freedom of speech provisions in the US Constitution.

But the FDA DOES take offense to promotional material that accompanies a commercial website or store display.  For example, books that promote a particular dietary supplement cannot be displayed alongside a product shelf display.

The online page for a brand of apricot seeds that are purported to prevent cancer (vitamin B17) includes a side advertisement for a popular book, WORLD WITHOUT CANCER that touts B17 as a cancer cure. [Amazon.com] Freedom of speech is allowed but should be two clicks away from a commercial site if the product is promoted online, says the FDA.

FDA two-click rule

An FDA unwritten rule is that testimonials and scientific references for dietary supplements should be posted two-clicks away from the primary online site selling a product.  Even then, testimonials and scientific studies may be troublesome for dietary supplement marketers. [Michael H Cohen Law Group]  The informal two-click rule for online advertising of dietary supplements belonged to the Bush-era, not the current political era. [Jonathan Emord]  Jonathan Emord, regulatory attorney in Washington DC, notes that a 1960’s federal court decision struck down an attempt by FDA to deem honey displayed in a health food store an unapproved drug because the store also had a library that contained a book about the therapeutic properties of honey.  [Jonathan Emord]

Off-label drug claims versus dietary supplement claims

For comparison, the FDA must permit off-label advertising claims for FDA-approved drugs which are justified by a court ruling under the 1st Amendment.  [The Food & Drug Law Institute]  However, dietary supplements that have not undergone the FDA new drug application and approval process are not permitted to make similar claims.  This means drugs unapproved for a specific application can be marketed whereas dietary supplements cannot.  Go figure.

FDA even muzzles claims for nutrient-deficiency diseases

However, the FDA keeps a muzzle over dietary supplement products, even censoring products that cure obvious nutrient-deficiency diseases such as vitamin C for scurvy, vitamin B1 thiamin for beri beri, vitamin D for rickets, niacin for pellagra.  The problem is, no branded dietary supplement dare make a claim it cures anything without a couple of human clinical studies, even if that cure is obvious.

Many dietary supplements exert the same biological action as a prescription drug. For example, the red wine molecule resveratrol is an MAO inhibitor.  MAO inhibitors are prescribed for mental depression.  Resveratrol inhibits COX-2 and CRP, markers of inflammation, something that pain relievers like ibuprofen do.  Resveratrol thins the blood and prevent clumping of blood platelets without over-thinning blood and works more rapidly than Warfarin (Coumadin).  But such comparisons to drugs cannot be made by supplement marketers.

Don’t believe the only proven cancer cures are those the FDA has endorsed.  © 2016 Bill Sardi

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