August 1999 Bulletin

FTC cracks down on bogus health claims

Nearly 22.3 million American adults surfed the Internet looking for health and medical information as of December 1998, finding much that was deceptive, unproven and fraudulent, says the Federal trade Commission (FTC).

Almost 70 percent of those searching for health information did so before visiting a doctor's office.

The FTC has launched Operation Cure.All, using the Internet as a law enforcement tool to stop bogus claims. The FTC and other public health, consumer protection and information agencies from 25 countries conducted Health Claim Surf Days in 1997 and 1998 and identified about 800 World Wide Web sites and numerous Usenet newsgroups that contained questionable promotions for products or services. The sites purported to cure, treat or prevent heart disease, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The sites were alerted that the claims require scientific substantiation or they would be in violation of federal law.

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