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December 3, 1997

Surf's Up for Health Fraud Investigators

JAMA. 1997;278(21):1725. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550210021012

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ON NOVEMBER 5, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the results of the North American Health Claims Surf Day. In just a few hours of surfing the Internet on September 29 and 30, representatives of government agencies, health care organizations, and consumer protection groups from Canada, Mexico, and the United States netted more than 400 World Wide Web sites and numerous Usenet newsgroups that contain promotions of health products or services with dubious claims, the FTC reported.

The purpose of FTC's Health Claims Surf Day was to identify potentially false or deceptive advertising claims for products or services purported to help cure, treat, or prevent 6 diseases: AIDS, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis.

"In the few hours we surfed the Internet, we found numerous Web sites promoting a wide variety of unproven 'cures' for arthritis," said Doyt Conn, MD, senior vice president, medical affairs, for the Arthritis