FDA: Be wary of sites touting fraudulent radiation treatments

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Due to the public concern related to the nuclear incident in Japan, there has been an increased demand for such drugs as potassium iodide (KI), used to prevent and treat the harmful effects of radiation, according to a Food and Drug Administration Web page updated Thursday.

According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, all the available information continues to indicate that the United States, including U.S. Territories, are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radiation from the event in Japan. However, the agency is concerned that less-than-scrupulous people will try to take advantage of the latest health-related scare.

The FDA is alerting consumers to be wary of Internet sites and other retail outlets promoting products making false claims to prevent or treat effects of radiation, or products that are not FDA-approved. These fraudulent products come in all varieties and could include dietary supplements, food items, or products purporting to be drugs, devices or vaccines.

Consumers should be wary of the following:

  • Claims that a product not approved by the FDA can prevent or treat the harmful effects of radiation exposure;

  • Suggestions that a potassium iodide product will treat conditions other than those for which it is approved. KI floods the thyroid with nonradioactive iodine and prevents the uptake of the radioactive molecules, which subsequently are excreted in the urine;

  • Promotions using such words as “scientific breakthrough,” “new products,” “miraculous cure,” ”secret ingredient” and ”ancient remedy”;

  • Testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results;

  • Limited availability and advance-payment requirements;

  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees;

  • Promises of an “easy” fix; and

  • Claims that the product is “natural” or has fewer side effects than approved drugs.

“Don't be fooled by professional-looking websites,” the FDA stated. “Avoid websites that fail to list the company's name, physical address, phone number or other contact information.”

For more tips for online buying, the FDA suggested consumers visit Buying Medicines and Medical Products Online. To determine if a particular drug is FDA approved, check The Orange Book or Drugs@FDA.

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