FTC Sues 5 Online Companies for Peddling False Cancer Treatments
The Federal Trade Commission has sued 5 companies, alleging their deceptive advertising of bogus cancer cures, according to a government press release on Thursday. The suits are the culmination of an extended investigation,* in concert with the US FDA and the Competition Bureau Canada, to crack down on the online sale of unproven and potentially harmful products that are intended for the prevention, treatment, and/or cure of cancer. (See here for additional background.)
The 5 defendant companies (and associated individuals) are the following.
Alexander Heckman doing business as (d/b/a) Omega Supply and Eric Del Rio (San Diego, CA) through the website laetrilesupply.com: In addition to bogusly marketing cyanide-containing laetrile (aka "amygdalin" aka "vitamin B17") as a cancer cure, Heckman and Del Rio are charged with making false claims regarding the benefits of hydrazine sulphate (a potential carcinogen) and cloracesium (aka cesium chloride).
Mark J. and Marianne Hershiser d/b/a Native Essence Herb Company (El Prado, NM) through various websites: The FTC cites the company's marketing of the chaparral shrub (associated with "acute toxic hepatitis" per the FDA), various herbal concoctions, and maitake mushroom extracts.
James Feijo d/b/a Daniel Chapter One (Portsmith, RI) through the website danielchapterone.com: The company sells shark cartilage and herbal formulations. According to the FTC, Feijo claims that one of his formulations mitigates the adverse effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
William H. Iseley, owner of Gemtronics, Inc (Franklin, NC): Iseley's company markets Chrysobalanus icaco (aka the Florida evergreen shrub cocoplum) and Agaricus, the most widely consumed genus of mushroom.
Mary T. Spohn d/b/a Herbs for Cancer (Surprise, AZ): Spohn markets a whole slew of Chinese herbal teas, according to the FTC's complaint, which are advertised to treat at least 16 types of cancer.
The 5 suits will be litigated before administrative law judges at the FTC. The FTC also reports complaints against 6 other companies that have been settled. The proposed settlements stipulate that the cited individuals and/or companies will pay sizable judgments (in some cases, several hundred thousand dollars) and will be barred from representing their products as preventing, treating, or curing cancer without the support of "reliable scientific evidence." The settlements, however, do not constitute an admission of guilt by the defendants.
* Between August 2007 and January 2008, the FTC sent warning letters via e-mail to 112 websites. Among these, nearly 30% closed their sites or removed cancer-treatment claims.