Federal agencies issue warnings to firms claiming they can cure Alzheimer's: Internet Scambusters #864
When someone suffers from an incurable illness like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, it's understandable that sufferers and their families may clutch at straws to find an effective treatment.
But so-called alternative treatments are not only ineffective or, at least, unproven, they can also interfere with legitimate medical treatment.
In this week's issue, we'll tell you what government agencies and Alzheimer's groups are warning about -- in a nutshell: avoid them.
Let's get started...
Worries Mount Over Alzheimer's Cure Claims
When someone has a prolonged incurable disease, like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, it's inevitable that they or their family may try all manner of suggested or rumored cures. It happens as much out of a feeling that there's nothing to lose as any genuine belief in the alternative therapies.
But there is something to lose. Trying unproven treatments on the basis of spurious claims may delay or even affect approved medications that have been shown to offer benefits to some victims.
Some supposed treatments are also expensive - reducing the amount of money a victim may have to spend on more effective care.
We've written on this topic before - mostly in relation to unproven treatments for cancer (see Scams Hide Behind IV Drip Craze).
But as the search intensifies for a cure or effective treatment of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease, so has the number of alternative treatments -- some of them total scams.
A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found almost one third of ads they investigated falsely claimed a product could protect against dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.
And, recently, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out warning letters to firms whose ads claimed their products could treat the illness.
The FTC and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became "secret shoppers," posing as potential buyers of some of these products and found there was no scientific evidence or legitimate research to back up their claims.
Worse, some of the manufacturers or suppliers claimed they could actually treat multiple disorders like cancer, schizophrenia, diabetes, and epilepsy with exactly the same product.
"In our experience, a product advertised as a cure-all often turns out to be a cure-nothing..." the Commission said. "Just because a product is available online or sits on a store shelf is no guarantee that its ad claims are true."
It's illegal for someone to advertise a product they claim can prevent, treat or cure a disease without scrupulous scientific proof of its effectiveness. But sometimes, some of the claims these suppliers make are absolutely outrageous.
For example, one ad said: "You can even reverse mental decline associated with dementia or even Alzheimer's in just a week." And: "Can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by half."
Firms may even falsely claim their products are "clinically proven."
The FDA comments: "At best, the products offered by these scam artists will have no effect on the patient; at worst they may pose a danger to a patient who takes them. Not only will they not do what they claim, the ingredients in these products may interact with, and potentially interfere with, essential medications."
You should always be dubious about any claims to have achieved a scientific breakthrough, the FDA adds, and check with your doctor or healthcare professional before trying non-prescription medicines, including those labeled as "dietary supplements" - a common ruse used by scammers.
Not all alternative remedies are out-and-out scams. Some dietary supplements gain popularity and credibility just by word of mouth or well-intended online posts, as well as misleading or vague claims about memory-boosting supplements.
Not only are most of these products ineffective, but they also result in more than 23,000 visits to the emergency room every year, and the FDA says the actual number of incidents per year may be more than double that total.
According to the US-based Alzheimer's Association, "claims about the safety and effectiveness of these products... are largely based on testimonials, tradition, and a rather small body of scientific research."
Even though some of these products could be worthy of more investigation, using them as an alternative or in addition to physician-prescribed therapies is cause for concern, the organization says.
Their safety and effectiveness are unknown; so is their level of purity as well as their potential interactions.
The Association offers commentary on eight common products for which unsubstantiated claims have been made: Huperzine A, Caprylic Acid and coconut oil, Omega 3 fatty acids, Coenzyme Q10, Phosphatidylserine, Coral Calcium, Tramiprosate, and Gingko Biloba.
Read their full report here: Alternative Treatments.
While the search for an effective treatment for Alzheimer's (which is the most common form of dementia) goes on, it's everyone's duty to protect vulnerable sufferers.
For example, it's been shown that dementia victims are more likely to fall for scams that people with normal brain function might spot immediately
It's wicked when crooks cash in and offer false hope to people with Alzheimer's. If you're unfortunate enough to suffer or to have a sufferer in your family, there's one simple rule to help you avoid the tricksters: If their so-called cure really worked, every sufferer would be using it.
Alert of the Week
Don't take a DNA test if someone shows up at your front door and invites you to do so to see if you might be vulnerable to certain diseases (like those mentioned above).
They won't really test it. But they'll ask for personal details including your Social Security number and maybe a credit card number for payment.
You won't get your DNA result, but they'll have your ID and other confidential information!
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!