Unproven and untested medical treatments are a 20 billion dollar a year business. “Miracle cures” are announced weekly, if not daily. Internet marketers trumpet the benefits of their latest creation, while infomercials on late night television persuade, cajole and outright misrepresent the assertions of whatever product they’re promoting. Who is all this marketing aimed at? Why does it work so well? And most importantly, is it dangerous to your health?
According to a House Subcommittee report on Health and Long-Term care, more than 60% of people who try unproven treatment are above the age 65, and they spend billions on useless treatments. It’s been estimated that just about 80 percent of retired people have at least one chronic health problem; their distress and infirmities can lead to depression and despondency, making them targets for scam artists and those selling the latest craze in health care. But the elderly aren’t the only ones purchasing these products: from weight loss to hair replacement gimmicks to vitamin supplements, younger people as well are opening their checkbooks and spending big bucks on these remedies. It’s enough to drive the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) crazy, since they’re the agency that regulates such activity.
Trying unproven or untested treatments can not only be a waste of time and money, it can also be dangerous. The danger lies in two areas: direct health hazard or indirect health hazard. Direct health hazards are just that – the product can actually cause some action or reaction that endangers the health of the person using that product. For example, back in the early 1990′s, the herb Chaparral was touted as a blood cleanser and advocated in the treatment of certain cancers. It was sold in teas, capsules and tablets, and once the manufacturer claimed it could be used to treat a disease or condition, it fell under FDA jurisdiction. Reports began to surface that some people taking this herb were having serious liver and kidney problems, and in 1993 the FDA issued a warning to consumers not to use the product. Most manufacturers voluntarily withdrew the product from sale, and Chaparral faded into marketing history.
The other way these treatments can be harmful is by indirect means. A cancer patient, newly diagnosed and faced with expense regimens of chemotherapy and traditional medical treatments, might be tempted to try the latest “miracle cancer cure”, rejecting proven therapies in favor of the cheaper untested methods. By the time they realize they’re not receiving any benefit from the unproven method, their cancer may have advanced beyond traditional medicine’s ability to arrest and treat their cancer.
People are ever hopeful that medical miracles are not only possible, but happen routinely, and they’re willing to believe in any product that is touted as “all natural” or is “herbal” in origin. Keep in mind hemlock is an herb. So is nightshade. Herbs can kill, or they can cause such serious side effects that whoever takes them will require immediate life-saving techniques by modern medicine.
Don’t get swept up in the marketing hype for these types of products. Resist the urge to run out and buy the latest, best, brightest, most hopeful – whatever it is. Wait for a proven medical study that demonstrates the effectiveness and side effects of the product before you try it yourself. Don’t take unnecessary risks with your health.