In a similar vein (are we detecting a trend here?), many in conventional medicine are getting worried about the claims being made for nutritional and herbal products that are being advertised on the Web.
Any such claims fly in the face of the American legislation known as DSHEA (the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act 1994) which allowed the free supply of alternative remedies in the United States, provided neither manufacturer nor retailer made any claims for their efficacy. It was a last-minute deal that stopped legislation that sought to ban all remedies that had not been clinically tested for their effectiveness and safety.
Since then, the Web has exploded and unscrupulous suppliers are making amazing claims for their products; most, however, are making more modest claims, and ones that have been proved anecdotally, and sometimes in trials.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School checked the claims being made on 443 Web sites, 81 per cent of which were making health claims for products, and over half of these said their products could treat, prevent, diagnose or cure specific diseases.
The practice is, of course, wrong and possibly even dangerous. 'Buyer beware' has to be the watchword for anyone who is shopping for health products on the Web.
DSHEA requires the cooperation and self-regulation of the alternative medicines market, and Web suppliers clearly fly in the face of this.
So . . . it doesn't take an enormous leap from there to suggest that legislators may have to tighten up DSHEA, and quickly. After all, it would only be following on from tighter controls being imposed by the EU. . .
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2003; 290: 1505-9).