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.
- Olive leaf extract advertised to kill cancerous cells
- “Blood Purifier” Indian Madder to help destroy tumours
- Himalayan apricot kernels “to give cancer cells a hard time”
- Dried crocodile blood to relieve anaemia, allergies, immune disorders, cancer, diabetes “and other health”, said to “put the bite on HIV”
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Enquiries regarding enforcement should go to email@example.com. To ask if a product is a medicine or not, you should email Medicines.Borderline.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Amazon UK seller breaches Cancer act (1939) Keir Liddle, The Twenty-First Floor, 02/03/13