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Flee fraudulent flu products, FDA warns

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration are warning the public to flee fraudulent flu products that are readily available online. While the flu season may have peaked in parts of the nation, Internet carpetbaggers continue to convince unsuspecting consumers to buy their products.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These products are being promoted by claiming they can treat or cure the flu. These products have not been tested or approved by the FDA, however - so beware.

Found online and in retail stores, these bogus drugs may be marketed as dietary supplements or conventional foods, drugs, nasal sprays and devices.

"As any health threat emerges, fraudulent products appear almost overnight," the FDA's national health fraud coordinator Gary Coody says. "Right now, so-called 'alternatives' to the flu vaccine are big with scammers."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are adamant that people get the flu vaccine as your first line of defense. In fact, the CDC calls getting the flu vaccine the "most important" step in protecting against flu viruses.

"These unproven products give consumers a false sense of security," director of FDA's Office of Compliance and Biologics Quality Mary Malarkey says. "There is no need to buy a product that claims to be an alternative to the vaccine. Flu vaccine is still available and it's not too late to get vaccinated."

The CDC recommends two FDA-approved antiviral drugs for flu sufferers: Tamiflu and Relenza. These prescriptions drugs help fight the virus in your body and shorten the time you're sick.

While there are a number of legal over-the-counter drugs to reduce fever and to relieve muscle aches and other flu symptoms, there are no legally marketed OTC drugs to prevent or cure the flu.

Unapproved drugs, conventional foods or devices are fraudulent if they make flu prevention, treatment or cure claims. This is "because they haven't been evaluated by the FDA for these uses," Coody says.

In an attempt to crack down on these so-called "snake oil" cures, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission sent a warning letter to the company that markets "GermBullet," which is a nasal inhaler that makes flu prevention and treatment claims.

"If the company continues to sell the product without removing the deceptive and illegal language, the firm may be subject to enforcement action, which could include seizure of the products or other legal sanctions," the letter read.

Internet scammers also take advantage of unsuspecting consumers in online pharmacies. While legitimate online pharmacies do exist, many Web sites that look legitimate are actually fraudulent and illegal. These illegal online pharmacies may be selling unapproved antiviral drugs.

"Beware of websites that sell generic Tamiflu or Relenza," FDA pharmacist Connie Jung says. "Currently there are no FDA-approved generics available for these drugs on the U.S. market."

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