“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Unfortunately, that’s even truer in today’s Internet world than it was when writer H.L. Mencken said it more than a half century ago. In our never-ending search to lose weight without exercising or changing our eating habits, to reshape our bodies, or to conquer illnesses such as cancer that baffle our best scientific and medical minds, too many consumers fall prey to unscrupulous companies and unproven products. Thank God for the US Food and Drug Administration!
The often-maligned agency is our front-line defense against modern-day, snake-oil salesmen and bogus claims. And the Internet has made the agency’s task a 24/7 endeavor.
Recently, for example, US Marshals seized creams, capsules, tablets, gum, throat spray, and shampoos from Beehive Botanicals (Haywood, WI). According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, the products were misbranded and unapproved new drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
FDA said Beehive, on links on its Web site and in labeling and promotional materials, claimed the products could be used to diagnose, cure, and prevent diseases such as asthma, dermatitis, and ulcers. The company also claimed that the products could aid in the treatment or prevention of cancer, liver or kidney disease, insomnia, bone fractures, and skin disorders.
Beehive also claimed that several products have been “proven to have antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal properties,” and could be “used to prevent and ameliorate a wide variety of medical conditions,”according to an FDA press release on the subject.
When someone spends money for a miracle diet pill that will supposedly allow them to lose weight while they eat junk food in front of the television, frankly, we think of the Thomas Tusser proverb, “A fool and his money are soon parted” or the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
But there’s nothing funny, or civilized, about someone in the throes of an illness being exploited, financially and mentally, by companies or marketers touting unproven medical claims. Sadly, when some people are in this state, they’re willing to reach out for any perceived helping hand.
Of course, that’s when FDA must step in, as it did in the case of Beehive. And while some people are often quick to criticize FDA for things such as the slow pace of new drug approvals, it’s downright scary to think what the American marketplace would be without its vital work.