FDA cracks down on Utah company, 13 others selling products claiming cancer benefits

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — LifeVantage Corporation, a multilevel marketing company headquartered in Sandy, was among 14 companies that received a warning letter recently from the FDA for selling products that “fraudulently claim to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure cancer.” The companies have been advised to change or remove the fraudulent claims on their websites.

LifeVantage’s Protandim NRF2 Synergizer product was one of 65 total products touted by these companies and addressed by the FDA. LifeVantage claims the product guards against “cellular stress” and “when activated, NRF2 turns on the production of specific antioxidants the body needs to fight cellular stress effectively.”

In a written statement to St. George News, Chief Executive Officer of LifeVantage Darren Jensen said they pride themselves on a “science-based approach” to product development.

“We proactively consult with distinguished FDA experts to ensure our promotional materials and websites adhere to FDA regulations,” Jensen said.

If the companies don’t comply within 15 days, the FDA may take further legal action to prevent their products from reaching consumers.

“We will respond to the FDA in a timely fashion and make any changes needed to further ensure our compliance,” Jensen said.

Be wary of social media and website claims

The FDA is advising consumers to beware of products claiming to cure cancer on websites or social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Nicole Kornspan, a consumer safety officer at the FDA, said they’re rampant these days.

“Anyone who suffers from cancer, or knows someone who does, understands the fear and desperation that can set in,” Kornspan said. “There can be a great temptation to jump at anything that appears to offer a chance for a cure.”

Legitimate medical products such as drugs and devices intended to treat cancer must gain FDA approval or clearance before they are marketed and sold. The agency’s review process helps ensure that these products are safe and effective for their intended uses.

Bogus treatments

The FDA said it’s always possible to find individuals or companies hawking bogus cancer “treatments,” which come in many forms, including pills, capsules, powders, creams, teas, oils and treatment kits.

Frequently advertised as “natural” treatments and often falsely labeled as dietary supplements, such products may appear harmless but may cause harm by delaying or interfering with proven, beneficial treatments. And without FDA approval or clearance for safety, they could also contain dangerous ingredients.

This holds true for treatments intended for humans and those intended for pets, Kornspan said.

“Increasingly, bogus remedies claiming to cure cancer in cats and dogs are showing up online,” she said. “People who cannot afford to spend large sums at the animal hospital to treat cancer in their beloved dogs and cats are searching for less expensive remedies.”

The FDA urges consumers to steer clear of these potentially unsafe and unproven products and to always discuss cancer treatment options with their licensed health care provider.

“There are legal ways for patients to access investigational drugs, for example taking part in clinical trials,” Kornspan said.

Patients looking to try an experimental cancer treatment should talk to their doctor about treatment options. For more information, visit the National Cancer Institute Clinical Trials website.

Red flags

While some fraudulent products claim to cure a variety of diseases and conditions, fraudulent cancer products often use a particular vocabulary, Kornspan said. Consumers should recognize certain phrases as red flags, including:

  • Treats all forms of cancer.
  • Miraculously kills cancer cells and tumors.
  • Shrinks malignant tumors.
  • Selectively kills cancer cells.
  • More effective than chemotherapy.
  • Attacks cancer cells, leaving healthy cells intact.
  • Cures cancer.

Tip-offs to rip-offs

The FDA offers some tip-offs to help you identify rip-offs.

  • 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 and dysuria, as well as lung, cervical and prostate cancer. In October 2012, at the FDA’s request, U.S. marshals seized these products.
  • Personal testimonials. Success stories such as, “It cured my diabetes” or “My tumors 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 be deadly 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.

Even with these tips, fraudulent health products are not always easy to spot. If you’re tempted to buy an unproven product or one with questionable claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first.

Social media celebrities targeted

Social media is playing such a large part in marketing products such as these that the FDA now has a special section of its website that is devoted to presenting risk and benefit information and “correcting independent third-party information.”

In fact, the FDA also sent letters to social media celebrities Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez, demanding that they disclose relationships with brands, especially those relationships with medical companies.

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8 Comments

  • Proud Rebel April 26, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    So it would seem that Mr. Jensen joins the long list of rip off artists here in Utah, The Rip Off Capitol Of The World.
    Now ripping people off in general is despicable enough, but to rip off people who are terrified for their lives, or the lives of their loved ones, is a special form of pond scum.
    If in fact, that is what Mr. Jensen is doing, and I don’t know whether it is or not, then he needs to serve some serious jail time. Perhaps sharing a cell with “Big Bubba” for a few years, might change his perspective.

  • Mr. W April 26, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Maybe some dotera oil will cure the stupidity.

  • Chris April 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    if it’s “multilevel marketing”, it’s a scam.

  • Caveat_Emptor April 26, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Frankly, it is surprising to see the FDA responding to these fraudulent claims in the Trumpian-era, and knowing how protective that Orrin Hatch has been of this industry. Here, the confidence tricksters wear white lab coats with their names embroidered on the breast pockets…..
    While the gold standard for making claims of treatment has traditionally been a clinical study, to show both safety and effectiveness, I am guessing that the Trumpian-era FDA will dispense with these prerequisites………Science can’t get in the way of making a buck, or two…..

  • comments April 26, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Well if Kim Kardashian or Selena Gomez put their name on it it has to be good, right?

  • DirtyHippyTevas April 26, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Unfortunately a lot of Utahns are vulnerable to pseudoscience. For example, we have heaps of chiropractors in town because people still think their title “doctor” is the same as a medical doctor. They’re “doctors” the same way witch doctors, love doctors, and Rug Doctors are. They didn’t go to medical school. Chiropractic is not science based medicine. Utahns love giving money to con artists and it’s sad.

    • Proud Rebel April 27, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Actually, the practice of chiropractic​ dates back to at least the 1800s. And it can be of great benefit to certain problems. Face it, as we live a normal life, the body experiences many physical stresses. It’s not at all unusual to have joints thrown out of alignment.
      An educated, honest chiropractor, (if you can find one,) can save a person much agonizing pain. It’s unfortunate that this industry is filled with snake oil salesmen, and incompetent practitioners​.
      I used a particular chiropractor off and on for several years, and was always well pleased with the outcome. Then one day, I saw an advertisement from this same chiropractor, advertising cure of “the common cold through chiropracty.” I never went back to him.

  • theone April 27, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Well I got out my seer stones, dusted them off, and wallah, I discovered the cure for cancer! First you have to add 3 parts BS, 2 parts mumbojumbo, stir for one hour while reading Harry Potter. Always remember kids, don’t do this at home.

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