North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Don’t cough up money for fake flu cures

11/10/2009

By Attorney General Roy Cooper

Flu season is here, and this year we’re facing both the regular flu and the H1N1 flu. Concern about H1N1 has created a high demand for flu vaccines and legitimate flu treatments. It’s also spawned dozens of websites pitching bogus products that claim to ward off or prevent the flu. The US Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning about 140 fraudulent flu products, such as special shampoos, hand sprays and electronic devices.
 
Scammers often use concerns about illnesses and health problems to try to make an unfair buck off of consumers. You’ve probably seen advertisements or websites that offer dietary supplements, medications, food, or equipment which they claim will treat or prevent conditions such as the H1N1 virus, arthritis or diabetes. 
 
The best ways to avoid getting the flu are to get a flu shot, wash your hands regularly, and stay away from people who are sick. The only medications approved to treat H1N1 are Tamiflu and Relenza, and both are available only by prescription. You can check with the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information on the H1N1 virus and approved treatments.
 
Before you spend your hard-earned money on questionable cures for the flu or whatever else ails you, consider the following tips:
 
  • Ask for proof. Many health products don’t back up their claims with factual proof. Remember that testimonials about a product may be exaggerated or false.

  • Check for warnings or recalls. Some supplements and herbal products may be dangerous and even deadly. Check with the FDA for warnings and recalls.  
       
  • Consult your doctor. Some supplements can interfere with prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take. Check with your doctor or health care professional to learn about possible drug interactions. 

  • Be careful about online prescriptions. Only purchase prescription drugs from licensed pharmacies in the United States to ensure that the drugs have been tested and approved by the FDA. The FDA reports that some consumers who tried to order Tamiflu online instead wound up with pills made of talc and Tylenol.      
   
  • “Natural” doesn't mean safe.  Just because a product claims to be “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Natural products can cause allergic reactions or even be toxic in large doses.

  • Pay with a credit card to improve your chances of being able to get a refund if you aren’t satisfied with the product or if the seller goes out of business without delivering your order.

  • Report phony flu cures. You can report to the FDA products that claim to cure or prevent the flu.
 
To file a complaint about a questionable health product, contact my Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or visit www.ncdoj.gov.