Educational Consumer Tips

Unproven Medical Treatments

Author: Better Business Bureau

$20 billion dollars is spent by Americans each year on unproven medical treatments, and 60% are over the age of 65 according to a 1984 House Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care report.
Approximately 80% of older Americans have one or more chronic health problems making them excellent targets for deception. Despite disappointments with promised cures, many elderly people have continued to hold out hope that the next quick "cure" will work- and many are encouraged to try anything, by other family members who fear the loss of loved ones.
There have been cases where people have gotten better when using unproven treatments, but without controlled scientific studies it is impossible to determine if the improvement is associated with the actual treatment, represents the body healing itself, or if the improvement is the result of faith or a strong belief in the treatment itself. It is important to remember that may conditions get better on their own, or appear to get better if we believe that they will.
Taking a chance on unproven treatments is often dangerous according to the FDA. Direct health hazards are likely to cause serious injury. Indirect health hazards are those that may cause people to delay or reject proven medical remedies, resulting in a loss of valuable time during which the proven treatment could make a dramatic difference in the health or the life of the patient, allowing a disease such as cancer to advance to the point where even proven treatments may be ineffective.
Here are some things to think about before making the decision to try a health remedy not prescribed by your doctor: Is the treatment promoted only in the back pages of magazines, by phone, direct mail, and in infomercials? Does the treatment claim or allude to cure serious disorders? Do the promoters indicate that it is inexpensive and has no side effects- or that it eliminatess the need to see a doctor. It is important to ask for scientific proof of any health or safety claims, before you invest your time on a non-FDA approved treatment. Is there a way to contact the company by phone to ask questions, and do you know where and under what condition the treatment is created?
Your local Federal Food & Drug Administration has a wealth of free information on both approved and unproven treatments.