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Scam 'cures' for swine flu face crackdown

The FDA and FTC target peddlers of colloidal silver and other potentially harmful products. Tamiflu and Relenza are the only approved treatments.

May 02, 2009|David Colker

The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission said Friday that they are going after scam artists taking advantage of the swine flu scare to sell worthless, even dangerous "remedies."

Consumers who treat the swine flu virus (also known as H1N1) with unapproved products "risk their health and the health of their families," said Michael Chappell, acting FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

The two agencies have adopted "an aggressive strategy to identify, investigate, and take regulatory or criminal action" against peddlers of unapproved products, he said.

An Internet search turned up sites selling colloidal silver, which is basically water that includes silver particles. The ads say the swine flu virus can be killed by washing the skin and even the hair with the stuff.

But colloidal silver as a cure-all is a fraud with a long history, with quacks claiming it could cure cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes and numerous other diseases. In 1999, the FDA banned claims of therapeutic value for over-the-counter colloidal silver products.

Studies showed the so-called tonic could be dangerous, causing seizures and kidney damage. Pregnant women were specifically warned that colloidal silver could cause harm to fetuses.

Simple hand-washing is one of the best defenses against the flu, experts say. If you do catch it, there are only two FDA-approved antiviral drugs for treatment: Tamiflu and Relenza, both of which are available only by prescription.

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david.colker@latimes.com

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