Cancer quackery on sale at Amazon.co.uk

Selling and advertising unlicensed cancer cures is illegal, dangerous and cynically exploits the vulnerable. And while it doesn’t surprise me that there are dubious alternative health websites marketing such products, to find them on sale through Amazon is unexpected and worrying.

The following products are all currently available* from Amazon.co.uk, sold by third parties. The Blood Purifier is even “fulfilled by Amazon”, meaning the product is picked, packed and shipped by Amazon from one of their warehouses.

This is just a tiny fraction of what’s on there. As I write, there seems no limit to what can be found.

The first such listing to grab my attention was this ad for Cancer Care – an apparently natural, drug free, non-toxic, side-effect free homeopathic product, accompanied by the following Product Description:

For a cell to become cancerous it must first form a tumour and then develop the ability for some of the tumour cells to spread to other parts of the body. Homeovitality Cancer Care has been developed to target the KEAP1 and TIP30 genes to arrest tumour growth and stop tumour cells from spreading. May be taken on a permanent basis after diagnosis. What do KEAP1 and TIP30 do? KEAP1 is a recently discovered master tumour suppressor gene. Scientists at the M. D. Anderson’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology discovered how it works. It suppresses tumour growth by destruction of oncoproteins, proteins that promote tumour growth. It also inhibits tumour invasion or spreading and helps to cut off a tumour’s blood supply so that it its growth is arrested. The same scientists found that under-expression of KEAP1 alone resulted in poor survival among many different types of cancer patients. TIP30 on the other hand has been shown to play a very important role in inhibition of the spread of cancer cells, metastasis. Insufficient activity of TIP30 permits cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, up-regulation of TIP30 plays an important role in reducing the spread of cancer cells.

Homeopathic gene-targeted chemotherapy. Quite remarkable.

As explained here on the 21st Floor site, the ad was reported to Amazon and to the Advertising Standards Authority just over a week ago, alongside similar ads for TumOX40 and Fibrocare.

Amazon responded by removing the listing for Cancer Care and TumOX40 and by editing the Fibrocare listing to remove references to cancer.

It’s a good first step but there’s a long way to go yet.

Further action

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk may be contacted here. Their Customer Service department can be reached on 0800 496 1081 or for international customers, on  +44 207 084 7911. They are on Twitter @AmazonUK.

Trading Standards

The UK Cancer Act (1939) states that:

No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—

containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof

Breaches of the Cancer Act should be reported to Trading Standards, who are also responsible for enforcing Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Details of your local office may be found here.

Slough Trading Standards (“Home Authority” for Amazon.co.uk) may be contacted here (though this is intended just for Slough residents) or at Slough Borough Council,Regulatory Enforcement Unit,Trading Standards, Room FE08, First Floor East, Town Hall, Bath Road,Slough, SL1 3UQ. The relevant address to quote for Amazon is Amazon.co.uk Ltd, Patriot Court, 1-9 The Grove, Slough, SL1 1QP

MHRA

Before a medicine can be placed on the UK market it must have a licence (either a full Marketing Authorisation or a Traditional Herbal Registration) granted by the MHRA.

The MHRA say here that

Information linked to an unlicensed product which makes direct or implied claims may well cause the Section to say that a product falls within the definition of a medicinal product.

However, there are products where it is not easy to distinguish a medicine from, for example, cosmetics or food supplements. There are also exemptions for some herbal remedies.

Advertising unlicensed medicines is prohibited. Further information on advertising and promoting medicines in the UK is given here.

Contact details for the MHRA are here. The email address for Head Office is info@mhra.gsi.gov.uk. Enquiries regarding enforcement should go to casereferrals@mhra.gsi.gov.uk. To ask if a product is a medicine or not, you should email Medicines.Borderline.advice@mhra.gsi.gov.uk.

Advertising Standards Authority

You can complain to the ASA about misleading, unsubstantiated claims. As part of your complaint, you should also also point out instances where the advertising may dissuade customers from consulting a suitably qualified medical professional, especially if the ad refers to named conditions which require medical attention.

But remember that the ASA will act on just one complaint and overloading them could be counterproductive.

Related articles

Amazon UK seller breaches Cancer act (1939) Keir Liddle, The Twenty-First Floor, 02/03/13

____________________________________________

* UPDATE 01/04/13 Amazon.co.uk removed the listings after being contacted by The Times. Here are links to Freezepage copies of the pages in question: 1, 2, 3, 4.

15 responses to “Cancer quackery on sale at Amazon.co.uk

  1. Well done. The seller AND Amazon should both be prosecuted, not just allowed to rejig the wording and carry on. They break the law with impunity.

  2. I’m surprised at this and not surprised. I hate that people prey on cancer people–as if the disease and treatment weren’t enough horror.

  3. I emailed Amazon on 15th March and have had the following reply:

    Thank you for writing to Amazon.co.uk. We value all feedback from our customers and your correspondence has been forwarded to the correct team internally.

    Regards,

    Trina Corbett
    Executive Customer Relations
    Amazon.co.uk

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  5. sebastianarmstrong

    I wonder, did they have to print it and roll it into a tube before forwarding it “internally”. I know that I would like to tell them where to stick the products, but I don’t think your e-mail needed to be stuffed there.

  6. One of the products I mentioned (Olive Leaf Extract) has been removed but I don’t know if it was as a result of my complaint. The rest of them are all on there and I haven’t heard from Amazon again.

    I had been hoping they’d keep me updated. My email had been as follows:

    I have noticed that there are listings for various alternative health products on amazon.co.uk, sold by third parties and in some cases fulfilled by Amazon. These are not licensed medicines but are presented with a view to treat or cure disease. Some are even sold with a view to treat or cure cancer.

    Since they aren’t licensed medicines, they are not regulated and we don’t know if they are safe or effective. These could be harmful or dangerous to vulnerable people. It is illegal to sell or advertise unlicensed medicines and advertising cancer treatments is also illegal under the Cancer Act (1939).

    Here are some examples of the type of products I mean:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Olive-Leaf-Extract-Capsules-Probiotic/dp/B004LWPM1A/ref=sr_1_1?s=drugstore&ie=UTF8&qid=1362856051&sr=1-1

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Organic-Manjista-Manjistha-cordifolia-Certified/dp/B008GZ2OFA/ref=sr_1_1?s=drugstore&ie=UTF8&qid=1362856306&sr=1-1

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bobs-Best-BBS-35051-Apricot-Kernels/dp/B007UP1K5M/ref=sr_1_5?s=drugstore&ie=UTF8&qid=1362857906&sr=1-5

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wanithai-Crocodile-Supplement-Circulation-Diabetes/dp/B008F44QF8/ref=sr_1_1?s=drugstore&ie=UTF8&qid=1362859265&sr=1-1

    I am aware that there were similar complaints to amazon.co.uk couple of weeks ago about listings for treatments advertised to treat cancer, sold by homeovitality. I believe some of these listings were removed and another was edited.

    It is my concern that simply removing or editing these listings would not ultimately solve the problem, since this is just a small selection of the products available.

    I would be grateful if you could let me know what action will be taken, as I intend to contact the MHRA and Trading Standards if the problem persists.

    I have not yet contacted Trading Standards but I believe others have done so. I haven’t contacted the MHRA yet either but I will certainly do so if I don’t get a satisfactory response from Amazon.

  7. Amazon.co.uk removed the listings mentioned in this post after being contacted by The Times.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/medicine/article3727845.ece

  8. Ironic isn’t it that legislation in 1939 to clamp down on the sale of snake oil “cancer cures” is still needed today.

  9. Stephanie Lidstrom

    Crocodile blood sounds far-fetched, but it’s a shame to see it grouped with apricot kernels. There is little question apricot kernels are a great benefit for many different forms of cancer. A Chinese study published as recently as last month found their extract to be highly effective against cervical cancer, both in vitro and in vivo.

    Despite this, apricot kernels remain under fire by regulatory authorities worldwide. Australia, for instance, appears to have banned the sale of raw apricot kernels as food. Different varieties have different levels of B17. Only those containing very small quantities of amygdalin can be sold for consumption and, sadly, they continue to be sold as therapeutic. But there are still raw apricot kernels being sold for “cosmetic” purposes that are rich and potent. Despite the warnings of potentially fatal side effects, there is virtually no evidence to support this concern, relatively speaking, which seems rather suspicious to those of us capable of intelligent research. Yes, one can find instances of excess consumption, but relative to the number of users, serious harm backed by medical document is nearly unheard of. The risk is little more than theoretical.

  10. Stephanie there are many compounds that might kill cancer cells differentially in a dish that would not be suitable for consumption – and that would not kill cancer cells in a living body.
    “In vivo” generally means “in mouse” and no just any old mouse – genetically modified mouse, that has been specially bred to get multiple cancers if you just look in their direction with the wrong expression on your face. Until human trials have been conducted that carefully assess whether a substance has a therapeutic effect in patients it is irresponsible to encourage people to believe that such a substance is any use whatsoever as a treatment or preventative. I too would like to see your reference.

  11. Stephanie Lidstrom

    I’ve been trying to find the original document I’d read to no avail. I believe the following is an extract of the same study, though it doesn’t reference apricot kernels as the amygdalin source. I will endeavor to find the more thorough publication previously cited.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23137229

  12. Pingback: Cancer quackery still available from Amazon | Josephine Jones

  13. Pingback: Amazon rebuked by ASA for promoting measles | Josephine Jones

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