Health Care Scams Touted in Surprising Places

I’m using National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9, as an excuse to get on my soapbox and preach once again about health care scams, shams, schemes and swindles. You know, the “miracle cures.” “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days.” “It made my tumor disappear.” The types of ads you see on the internet and in full-page ads in the newspaper. These are obvious attempts to prey on consumer desperation or fantasies of a quick fix. I like to think my readers are too smart to be taken in by such bunk.

But there are more subtle hustles out there. I came across one recently in a newspaper column on health and wellness authored by a duo of well-known health gurus. The doctors touted the benefits of a supplement called Rhodiola as a fatigue and stress fighting “tonic.”  Since lawyering often involves pressure and long hours, I thought, “Whoa, I need to look into that.”

A cursory search on the internet told me that Rhodiola rosea is the “new ginseng.” Along with boosting energy, reducing anxiety, enhancing mood and improving sexual function, it will also cure depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is, I read, “the new Fountain of Youth,” backed up by the results of at least three double-blind studies. Studies! How had I missed this miracle herb at my local drug store? So I did an online search for the supplement at my local pharmacy and I found the “Aha!” I knew was out there.

All three studies were done in former Soviet republics. “For reasons that are unclear, double-blind studies performed in the former USSR (or China) almost always find the tested treatment effective. This consistent pattern of excessively positive results has made outside observers highly skeptical. For this reason, only if confirmation is obtained in a more reliable setting can Rhodiola be considered to have real supporting evidence behind it.” Enough said.

This just goes to show that a “miracle supplement” never is, even when it’s hyped by a health celebrity. For more information about dangerous supplements, read my blogs “FDA Issues Warning About So-Called Brain Supplement Prevagen” and “FDA Warns Against Taking Supplement Called Reumofan Plus.” Happy Consumer Protection Week.

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