QUACKERY ON TELEVISION: IT NEVER ENDS!

Here are more reasons why you should doubt health issues that are presented on TV.

As I have explained previously, the so-called “ethical” pharmaceutical companies are constantly filling the airwaves with overpriced drugs that are often no better—or even worse—than cheaper alternatives. At least when they cite all those nasty side effects, this confirms that the product has been proved effective by the FDA. By contrast, when nostrums are presented in the absence of those nasty disclaimers, the chances are that are categorized not as drugs, but as “supplements,” meaning that are not subject to FDA approval, are not only ineffective, but may be dangerous, as exemplified by my poster child, Prevagen, a product touted to improve your thought processes. These, and other products of their ilk, do promote at least two things: 1) false information and 2) free wallet space.

But malignant misinformation doesn’t stop there: fraudulent medical products may be slipped into local news programs at the behest of swindlers (AKA quacks), who pay the stations to fuse their pitches into actual news programming. Paying a modest fee to the stations, these grifters can insert ads as if they are medical “breakthroughs!” Using video clips from these broadcasts, they can then go on to present them on their own websites, attempting to gain credibility for their fake products because they have been “validated” by these appearances on TV.

Beautifully demonstrating how this is accomplished, the comedian/commentator John Oliver has presented a 21 minute video, which I heartily recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIi_QS1tdFM Oliver exposes how sponsored content promoting dubious health products and services can get blended into local television news programs without prominent disclosure of the sponsorship. Examples included:

  • an $879 shock-wave device promoted for erectile dysfunction and cellulite with the misleading claim that “the technology is FDA-recognized” when the device is merely registered with the FDA as a therapeutic massager
  • a laser treatment promoted for treating vaginal atrophy, even though the FDA has warned that using the device for vaginal “rejuvenation” or to perform vaginal cosmetic procedures may lead to serious adverse events, including vaginal burns, scarring, pain during sexual intercourse, and recurring or chronic pain
  • an unapproved, potentially harmful stem-cell therapy promoted for MS and Parkinson’s disease by a doctor who was disciplined several times by the Texas Medical Board
  • unproven stem-cell therapies promoted for multiple conditions by a naturopath

To demonstrate how easy it is to get sponsored content for ridiculous products featured on local news broadcasts, Oliver and his producers created a phony Venus Inventions, Inc., which offered a “sexual wellness blanket” called Venus Veil. The blanket was said to contain proprietary magnetic fibers that could “improve a wide range of sexual conditions from erectile issues to vaginal decay.” “News segments” for the blanket were aired on KVUE in Austin, Texas for modest monetary figures: $2,650, KMGH-TV (Denver7) in Denver, Colorado for $2,800, and KTVX (ABC4) in Salt Lake City, Utah for $1,750.

So next time you are exposed to anything on TV designed to promote better health, unless you are certain about its source, don’t believe it!

8 thoughts on “QUACKERY ON TELEVISION: IT NEVER ENDS!”

  1. Prevagen is such a good example. It is a dietary supplement of unproven and, at best, minimal effectiveness. It is widely promoted with expensive advertising that includes testimonials from users who have likely been paid to report favorable results. It is advertised to treat deterioration in short-term memory and cognitive “sharpness” that almost every senior citizen experiences. The extravagant claims of its value are entirely unsupported by well conducted studies. AND a great many pharmacists, who really should know better, mention it by name to their customers who request advice for help with cognitive decline. Is it any wonder that the manufacturer, Quincy Bioscience, reported earnings of over $200 million in 2000?

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