The billion dollar industry of fake cures and quack medicine
Every day, it seems, there is someone new trying to sell the latest greatest medicine that cures baldness, cures acne, makes you thin, gives you energy and builds libido. Fly-by-night companies finding "cures" for just about every adverse condition out there. This is nothing new. In the early days of the USA, snake oil salesmen traveled from town to town, claiming that their tonic was the cure to just about everything. The FDA was formed in 1862 which came
out with some controls for such fallacies -- the 1906 Food and Drug Act, the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the 1976 medical device amendments. Due to this newfound control over drugs and medical devices, many of these ineffective and often dangerous cures were removed from the market. The FDA controls the introduction of drugs into the US market and today it is nearly impossible (and illegal) to introduce a new drug into the market without FDA approval -- a process that takes millions of dollars and years of research, clinical studies and paperwork to complete.
So how do all of these modern day miracle cures show up on your TV, computer screen and radio? All of them are based on what are known as 'food supplements'. Food supplements are things like vitamins and minerals that are sold in their natural form all over the country. The FDA does not regulate these supplements, as long as they are not tainted, because they are nothing more than a common food product. The old snake oil salesmen bottle has been given a facelift and the products are marketed with fancy packaging. The people who put them out create a story behind them with "testimonials" from people. Sometimes they even enlist the endorsement of a famous person -- a very effective ploy to instill buyer confidence. Perhaps they invest a relatively small amount in fancy infomercials or magazine ads to sell the unsuspecting "snake oil" to the desperate consumer who is willing to try ANYTHING just for relief from their ailment. Then, they mark up the product thousands of times their actual value and watch the cash roll in.
The rule of thumb for a consumer regarding miracle cures seen on infomercials and other such advertising is to ignore them. No new medicine can be sold in the USA without FDA approval. FDA approved medicines are sold in pharmacies, grocery stores and normal outlets. Most times new medicines require a doctors prescription. If you are seeing it in TV or hearing about it on the radio the odds are it's not real and you would be wasting your money.
Additionally, the FDA controls the labeling placed on products including foods. You will notice that the packaging of most of these products does not usually make the claims you hear on the commercials. This is not always true as some fly-by-night companies will say anything, flood the market quickly, make a huge profit and disappear before the FDA can shut them down for false labeling.
One way some companies get around all of this is to actually sell vitamins and minerals labeled as such. You will tune into your radio and hear what sounds like an interview of a prestigious doctor. He will make claims for the benefit of certain vitamins. Taking calls from people and telling them which vitamin they should be taking to cure their illness. Then you will hear how all vitamins are not created equal. There are many variations to this pitch but the selling point is that you should buy a certain manufacturers brand of vitamin because it's natural, organic, pure or whatever term they want to add to it. Coincidently the manufacturer of the best vitamin in the world happens to be a sponsor of the show you're listening to!
The facts are that vitamins are chemicals and whether they come from some natural source or are synthesized in the factory, they are the same. Vitamin A is Vitamin A. It either is or it isn't. Telling people that the major manufacturers of drugs are not putting real vitamin A in the bottle with the name brand but that this unknown company created the real thing using a magic elixir is beyond belief.
Below are some warning signs and examples to look out for when people are trying to sell you the latest cure to your ailments:
1) The vitamin hacks will try and create a story that even though you are eating a balanced diet you are somehow under nourished. The American diet might have a lot of bad things going for it like too much fat, salt and sugar but nobody can claim it lacks vitamins. Every food you look at these days is fortified with some vitamin. Taken collectively the average American is not vitamin deficient.
2) Claims that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamins and minerals are set too low in some grand governmental conspiracy. These values are set well above what the average person needs per day and protect people from taking too much of certain vitamins which can be harmful in large doses. Of course, trying to convince you that you are deficient in vitamins and minerals requires that they make outrageous claims about how much you need per day.
3) They will tell you that everyone is undernourished and requires supplements. In saying so, they completely disregard thousands of years of human history in which nobody took vitamins. Not to mention the entire animal kingdom that must suffer terribly without their daily supplement!
4) Lose weight fast! Take this pill for 30 days or your money back! Guaranteed results. Just pay shipping and handling. The only way to lose weight is to eat less calories than you burn in a day. No matter how much you exercise if you eat 30,000 calories a day you will gain weight. No matter how many quack weight loss pills you take that were bought from the infomercial at 3AM, you will not lose weight if you eat more than you burn. You say to yourself, what do I have to lose in simply TRYING this new product -- after all, it's free if it doesn't work? However, you need to realize that they are sending you a bottle with some kind of vitamin mix in it that costs next to nothing to manufacture. Let's say it costs them a dollar to make it. They price it at $49.99 for a 30 days supply plus shipping and handling. You order the product, realize it's junk and ask for your refund or cancel your subscription to the refill service. Great, you paid $9.99 in shipping and handling for a product worth a buck. The hacks made a $8.99 profit on you. Between the people who don't bother to cancel or return, those that convince themselves that they should stick it out for a few months and see what happens and people like you who returned the product -- they are making a fortune.
5) Women, get rid of ugly cellulite fast. Guaranteed results. Just buy this cream and slather it on and your cellulite will disappear. No risk trial just pay s&h. Cellulite is fat that gathers and dimples in some women. If you had no fat you would have no cellulite. Just like you can't rub a cream on your belly to get rid of the fat you can't run a cream on your thighs to get rid of cellulite. The people hocking this stuff try and convince you that no matter how much you diet, the cellulite remains and cannot be removed without their miracle cure. This is a complete deception and an easy hook for the many people who have tried to lose weight but only with very little effort and therefore, had no success. When you diet, fat disappears at different rates form different parts of the body. The only way to get rid of cellulite is to lose enough body fat to where it disappears.
6) Beware of the testimonials. You watch the infomercial and see several people telling you how great the product is. Maybe they even show before and after pictures. These people are paid to be on the infomercial to say these things. Even if they were not, someone believing that some pill worked for them is a far cry from tested clinical data. Drug companies are required to spend years and a great deal of money on clinical studies and R&D, conducted under laboratory conditions, to determine if the new drug is working as promised. Placebo dosages are given to some of the participants in the study in what is known as a 'double blind study' to ensure that people's feelings are not clouding the actual effect that is being observed. The testimonials play on the placebo effect. It is a no-lose scenario for the vitamin hacks. If you buy it and convince yourself it helps, they will rip you off with their outrageous prices. If the testimonial makes you buy and then you don't fall for it they still make money.
7) Men, grow back your real hair. Stop loosing your hair and get a full head of hair in 60 days. The sheer number of various male pattern baldness cures out there is astounding. All of them except 2 approved by the FDA are bogus. Don't fall for the claims, testimonials and before and after pictures. There are two drugs currently approved for baldness. One is a topical treatment called Minoxidil that is sold under various trade names. It is applied to the scalp and has shown some benefit in patients. Different people respond differently to it and your results may be better or worse than average. This drug is sold over the counter at pharmacies and other retail stores. The other drug is finasteride sold under the trade name PropeciaŽ. This drug is taken daily and has shown positive results in many people. As with all drugs there are side effects. This drug is only available by prescription and you should talk to your doctor if you are interested in it.
Note: This article does not offer medical advice. Medical conditions do exist that are due to vitamin and mineral deficiency. Being overweight is a serious health risk. If you have symptoms, or think you might have such a condition, see your doctor. A doctor is best qualified to determine what you need -- not some infomercial at 3AM.