Tracking Internet Health Fraud
U.S. government agencies are teaming with the Canadian federal health department to combat fraudulent health claims on the Internet. The campaign—part law enforcement, part consumer education— is called “Operation Cure.All.”
According to FDA Consumer Magazine, the campaign is designed to crack down on unscrupulous marketers who use the Internet to prey on sick and vulnerable consumers. The agencies who have pooled their efforts are Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and various state legal and health departments.
In June, Operation Cure.All announced that it had initiated enforcement actions against six companies for making false and unsubstantiated claims. These included claims for herbal cancer cures, electric devices said to kill cancer-inducing parasites, and use of St. John’s Wort to treat AIDS.
Operation Cure.All representatives encourage consumers to report suspicious health claims by filing a complaint form at www .ftc.gov.
A team of British scientists recently determined that a hormone called PYY may hold promise in the rush to find a medication to fight obesity. Low PYY levels are thought to be a major reason why people gain weight, and restoring the hormone to normal levels may reduce food intake in overweight people.
The blind study, reported in the September 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the effects of PYY on appetite and food intake in obese and lean subjects. Of the 24 participants, half received PYY infusions. Two hours later, all the subjects were treated to a buffet lunch containing some of their favorite foods. Both obese and lean subjects who had received the PYY consumed at least 30 percent fewer calories during the lunch than the controls did. Plus, the PYY subjects consumed fewer calories in the 24-hour period after the infusions than they had done in the same period before the intervention.
PYY occurs naturally in the intestines and is one of many hormones known to regulate appetite. Drug manufacturers are expected to seek FDA approval to move forward in developing a synthetic version of the hormone to treat obese patients. However, in an accompanying editorial to this study, two physicians warned that no single drug “will provide a magic bullet to induce and maintain weight loss.”
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