Watch Out for Health Quacks

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Health quacks are people who sell useless or even harmful unproven remedies for everything ranging from A to Z. Offering false hope to those affected by myriad conditions, quacks pocket millions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers each year.

The elderly and those with chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, HIV, and multiple sclerosis are the most common targets for unscrupulous "cure-all" promoters. Many health quacks go after people who are overweight, promising fast painless weight-loss systems or products.

You can take steps to ensure that you do not fall victim to health quacks. The Federal Trade Commission and the National Institutes of Health offer the following tips for recognizing suspicious products and services. In general, you should be wary of:

  1. Products that claim to provide relief or cures for a number of different conditions.
  2. Special, ancient, or "secret" formulas, sometimes only available from one company.
  3. Promises of quick and easy weight loss without diet or exercise.
  4. Products that advertise prompt and painless cures.
  5. Products that promise cures for diseases with no known cure.
  6. Testimonials about miracles or breakthroughs that have not been documented in the medical literature.
  7. Products that require advance payments, offer a "free" bonus or extra product with purchase, or suppliers who claim limited availability of their product.
  8. Offers using terminology such as "scientific breakthrough," "miracle cure" and other superlatives or vague, scientific-sounding terms.
  9. "Money-back" guarantees if success is not achieved.