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October 25, 1985

Fight against fraud tracks 'miracle cures'

JAMA. 1985;254(16):2201-2202. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360160029005

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For every physician unable to cure the incurable, there are countless charlatans who claim they can. With asparagus oil, coffee enemas, and ground diamond dust, they claim to "cure" cancer. For arthritis, there are extracts of the green-lipped mussel, cow manure poultices, and radon gas treatments from uranium mines. And for the aging, there are innumerable devices and gadgets touted to eliminate wrinkles, restore hair, and cure senility.

It's all part of what a 1984 Congressional report called a "$10 billion a year scandal." The federal government now is enlisting state, local, and private agencies to combat it.

The FDA is one of several federal agencies charged with policing health fraud; its role is to enforce the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938. With sanctions ranging from regulatory (or warning) letters to seizures, injunctions, and civil and even criminal proceedings, the FDA has perhaps the broadest authority of all