Amazon.co.uk recently came under fire for selling illegal quack products claimed to cure or treat cancer. These included apricot kernels, dried crocodile blood, a “blood purifier” to help destroy tumours and a homeopathic product said to target genes to arrest tumour growth.
The issue was originally blogged on 21st Floor and by me, here. It was subsequently reported in the Times, the Daily Mail and the Mirror. Professor David Colquhoun described the health claims as “grotesque”, noting the danger that people will believe the hucksters and thereby deny themselves effective treatment.
Those products have now been removed from the site but Amazon seem to have done nothing to tackle the overall problem.
The following are all currently listed on Amazon.co.uk:
- Kigelia Africana cream from the African Sausage Tree, for skin cancer. It is claimed that Kigelia has an “astonishing effect on melanomas and sun damaged skin” and that the progress of skin cancer (in early or advanced stages) can be halted.
- Apricot kernels, said to be rich in vitamin B17 (amygdalin / laetrile). This is a notorious quack cancer cure.
- Reishi Mushroom powder. It is claimed that studies have shown this to possess “possibly even anti-tumor properties.” This particular listing is “fulfilled by Amazon”, meaning the product would come from an Amazon warehouse and delivery would be free.
- Reishi + acerola, marketed as “anti-tumor” (alongside many other unsupported claims).
- Antrodia Camphorata, which is apparently “being researched for its benefits in support the systems of sufferers of many types of cancer”. It is claimed to be commonly used as an anti-cancer drug and useful in the treatment of various diseases including diabetes, hepatitis “and many types of cancers including liver, lung, cervical, colon, and breast cancers and also leukemia and adenoma.”
- Prostamax Plus, aimed at men having problems with urination and erectile dysfunction. It was also claimed: “This same miracle could protect you from getting prostate cancer and may well help you overcome prostate cancer without having to undergo the use of dangerous drugs, debilitating and dangerous surgery, harmful radiation, and catastrophic microwave damage to your tissues.”
- Prostate Miracle, “an excellent pre-emptive measure to prevent prostate cancer from developing”. It is also claimed that this product may help prevent and slow the growth of prostate cancer, and that numerous studies have shown that selenium is of tremendous benefit in preventing and treating prostate cancer.
- Turkey Tail, said to contain PSK and PSP, “which have been clinically proven to be of potent benefit in a variety of cancers, including Gastric, Oesophageal, Lung, Breast and Colorectal”. Also claimed to cure ringworm, impetigo and liver disorders including hepatitis, to reduce toxic effects and pain of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and prolong the life of cancer patients.
- Doctor’s Best Best Artemisinin. According to the Product Description, studies show that artemisinin is effective against a wide variety of cancers, including leukemia and colon cancer, and “interemediate activities were also shown against melanoma, breast, ovarian, prostate, CNS and renal cancer.”
I could continue.
Such listings encourage customers to self diagnose and self medicate, dissuading them from seeking advice from their doctor. The products are not licensed medicines. As far as I can tell, they are completely unregulated. They have not been proven to be effective, nor have they been proven to be safe. We can’t even be sure what is in them. Taking any of these instead of real medicine could be fatal.
Selling and advertising any unlicensed medicine is illegal. Advertising cancer treatments would be a breach of the Cancer Act.
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.
Contact details for the MHRA are here. The email address for Head Office is email@example.com. Enquiries regarding enforcement should go to firstname.lastname@example.org. To ask if a product is a medicine or not, you should email Medicines.Borderline.email@example.com
Information on complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority is here.
Cancer quackery on sale at Amazon.co.uk Josephine Jones, 10/03/13
Amazon attacked for ‘selling illegal cancer remedies on behalf of hucksters’ Kat Lay, The Times, 01/04/13
Amazon removes ‘cures for cancer’ listings including crocodile blood and apricot kernels Andrew Gregory, Mirror, 01/04/13
Amazon under fire for selling illegal products that ‘claim to cure or treat cancer’ Helen Lawson, Mailonline, 01/04/13