Tag Archives: fraud

Warning Signs of Quackery and Fraud – Part 5

Here’s Part 5, the last of a series from an excerpt from my and Donal O’Mathuna’s book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely. You find the book here.

21. Does the product you’re considering require advance payment? Look out! You may never receive what you bought or get your money back. Continue reading

Warning Signs of Quackery and Fraud – Part 4

Here’s Part 4 from an excerpt from my and Donal O’Mathuna’s book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely. You find the book here.

16. Is a therapy encouraged simply because it’s been used for centuries by people in some remote place? This might simply mean that those people had nothing else to use. If the best texts on the subject are decades or centuries old, you’ll probably find that many of the old ideas were discredited long ago. Medicine evolves—just think about all we have discovered about nutrition in the last few decades. Continued use adds to our knowledge, uncovers side effects, fine-tunes dosage, and brings change. Continue reading

Warning Signs of Quackery and Fraud – Part 3

Here’s Part 3 of an excerpt from my and Donal O’Mathuna’s book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely. You’ll find out more about the book here. Next week, I’ll post another five warning signs.

11. Does the proponent of the therapy claim to be criticized unfairly? Some proponents of CAM portray themselves as martyrs, persecuted by the government, the medical establishment, or some other organization with a stake in keeping you unaware of their breakthrough.

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Warning Signs of Quackery and Fraud – Part 2

Here’s Part 2 of an excerpt from my and Donal O’Mathuna’s book, Alternative Medicine: The options, claims, evidence, how to choose wisely. You find the book here. Next week, I’ll post another five warning signs.

6. Are technical words used without a clear definition? “Energy” is one of those words. Claims that a therapy “boosts energy” can mean anything from the common idea that you feel better able to do things, to Eastern ideas of promoting the flow of chi or prana. Introducing ideas from quantum physics is usually not necessary if the product really works. Information sheets should clarify, not baffle with mind-boggling gobbledy-gook. Continue reading

FDA announces crackdown on chelation therapy — finally!

I’ve written about chelation for many years. In my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, I conclude, “Evidence against (chelation’s) effectiveness in heart disease is so clear, its continued use raises serious ethical questions. The therapy is very expensive and can be very lucrative for providers. But, it’s virtually worthless for consumers.” Some of my past blogs on chelation have included: Chelation therapy for autism not only potentially harmful, it’s based on faulty premise and Federal investigators uncover major problems with chelation study. Now, finally, comes news that the FDA is going to crack down on these quacks.

The Washington Post reports that officials from the Food and Drug Administration have “announced a crackdown on” chelation, “a controversial therapy widely hawked on the Internet and elsewhere as an alternative treatment for conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by ‘cleansing’ the body.”

In fact, the FDA “said it has sent warning letters to several companies notifying them that the substances they sell without a prescription for …’chelation’ are ‘unapproved drugs and devices,’ which makes them illegal.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that the chemicals used in chelation, “which help remove metals from the body, are potent drugs that carry serious risks, including kidney damage, dehydration, and even death, said FDA Medical Officer Dr. Charles Lee.”

In a separate but related piece, the Chicago Tribune notes that the FDA letters “come a year after a Chicago Tribune investigation found chelation treatment is popular among parents of children with autism, even though the therapy is … based on a disproven hypothesis that children with the disorder are actually suffering heavy metal poisoning.”

In fact, “in 2008, the National Institutes of Health halted a controversial government-funded study of chelation before a single child with autism was treated” after investigators “had found that rats without lead poisoning showed signs of cognitive damage after being treated with a chelator.”

The AP reported that the agency’s “warning letters call on each company to immediately stop marketing and selling their products or face legal action.” The products in question are freely available online and “come in a variety of forms, including sprays, capsules and drops.”

You can learn more about chelation is the QuackWatch.com article, Chelation Therapy: Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories, or read my chelation chapter in Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.

Chelation Therapy:
Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories

A Skeptical Look at Power Balance Products

I’ve had a couple of folks write in and ask about Power Balance devices. It looks like this may be an example of a quack product and company. But, it’s even worse than that. As one reader wrote to me:

The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund started a partnership with the pseudo scientific product Power Balance. The OCRF directly profits from the sale of the bracelet with the ORFC and Power Balance printed on it at $12.50 a time, this is serious money as millions of the bracelets are sold all over the world. … I think that this is the start of a worrying trend, if a organization (sic) this big will take money from crank product sales, then others will follow suit and they may choose a worse pseudo science. I believe the OCRF are eroding science credibility … they have a huge scientific advisory committee who lend weight to this product as well. As yet after a dozen e-mails I have no response from anyone at the OCRF.

Harriet Hall, M.D., has written a scathing review on Power Balance at the Quack Watch Web site. Here’s what Dr. Hall has to say about the OCRF / Power Balance partnership:

Marketing Strategies

The marketing is pure genius. If I were a professional scam artist, I don’t think I could come up with anything better. The company has an impressive trick demonstration that easily fools most people.

They spout a lot of pseudoscientific hooey that sounds impressive to the scientifically illiterate, but they are careful to make only vague claims that the Federal Trade Commission can’t object to.

The harmless products are inexpensive to manufacture, but the company charges enough to afford a money-back guarantee and still make money. They package the cheaper cards and stickers in multiples so they can charge more, but the prices are still low enough that the average person is willing to take a chance.

Who knows what is actually in the products?

If it were my scam, I’d put in any old hologram or none at all. No one is likely to investigate your production line to see how you get all those “beneficial frequencies” into the Mylar.

In August 2010, Power Balance added another clever dimension to its marketing—a “partnership” with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to raise money for ovarian cancer research. On August 23, 2010, OCRF Web site stated:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is teaming up with Power Balance, maker of revolutionary Performance Technology wristbands, in an exciting new partnership to raise funds for the cause

OCRF was approached by Power Balance when founders Josh and Troy Rodarmel, whose mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 1998, chose to join forces to help fight a disease that has affected them personally. . . .

On August 3, Power Balance celebrated the launch of the on-going partnership in style, with a glittering V.I.P. “All In For The Cure Poker Party” at Drai’s nightclub in Hollywood’s W Hotel. Power Balance athletes Derrick Rose and Lamar Odom were joined by some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment to raise funds for OCRF.

As part of the launch, Power Balance unveiled two specially designed OCRF wristbands, available at http://ocrf.powerbalance.com. 50 percent of proceeds from every band sold will be donated directly to OCRF.

In addition, beginning August 11, Power Balance will host an online art auction to benefit OCRF. The auction features 30 exclusive signed works of art depicting a selection of athletes, created by local California artist, Brian Bent. The athletes featured include: Drew Brees, Chad Ochocinco, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso, Derrick Rose, Matthew Stafford, Shaquille O’Neal, Matt Kemp and Lamar Odom. Bids are placed through the Power Balance website, with 100% of proceeds benefiting OCRF .

It seems to me that many people will regard this “partneship” as an implied endorsement of the bracelets.

On August 23, when Dr. Stephen Barrett phoned OCRF to complain, he was told that the staff sees nothing wrong with accepting the help as long as the device is not marketed with health claims.

During the conversation, Barrett noted that the word “revolutionary” in the first paragraph looked like an endorsement to him. Apparently in response to his complaint, the word “revolutionary” was removed and this disclaimer was added to the end of the article.

While OCRF appreciates the support of all of its corporate supporters, any reference to a specific commercial product or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by OCRF of the product or service or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document or on any referenced website do not reflect those of OCRF.

The Bottom Line

Tell me you use the Power Balance card and it makes you feel better, and I can readily believe you. Tell me your performance improves when you carry it, and I will believe you. But that won’t convince me that the improvement has anything to do with bioresonating frequencies in the holograms—or even with the cards themselves.

It’s like the tooth fairy. Tell me money appears under your pillow, and I will believe you. But that won’t convince me that the tooth fairy did it. The tooth fairy phenomenon is easily explained by human psychology and parental behavior.

The Power Balance phenomenon is easily explained by suggestion, confirmation bias, the placebo response, and other well-known aspects of human psychology that conspire to persuade people that ineffective things work.

Whether Power Balance bracelets do more good than harm would be difficult to measure. Modern versions of an amulet or rabbit’s foot (without harm to rabbits), they can elicit a placebo response, giving people confidence and possibly making them try harder. They are not exorbitantly expensive and even come with a money-back guarantee. On the other hand, for many people they will be a waste of money and, if enough people buy them, it can be argued that the collective amount could certainly be used for a more noble purpose.

Considering an Alternative Therapy? Here are signs that it may be fraudulent and unsafe

According to HealthDay News, alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, or acupressure, are becoming increasingly popular. But you should always use caution when experimenting with any alternative therapy, because it is not regulated by any government agency. Here are some tips to avoid quackery and medical fraud for you and your loved ones.

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