Hamburg details actions on fake H1N1 cures

Commissioner Margaret Hamburg's remarks at the Food and Drug Law Institute in Washington last week, in addition to putting the drug and food industries on notice about the new sheriff, were sprinkled with a few statistics and a little levity.

Several websites, she notes, began to promote products that fraudulently claimed to diagnose, prevent, or treat the H1N1 virus shortly after it had been identified. "These products included everything from a shampoo that claimed to protect against H1N1 to a costly electronic device that claimed to use ‘deeply penetrating mega-frequency life-force energy waves.'"

A cousin of the life-force energy-wave device--the Photon Genie, an "electromedicine instrument" said to strengthen the immune system by using "life-nourishing photobiotic energy"--has been cited among the regulator's favorites. Many sounded more plausible, Hamburg says, but were still fraudulent.

So in early May, the agency issued a general warning to consumers about Internet sites selling products said to treat swine flu. As of last week, Hamburg says, "the FDA had issued 65 warning letters to offending websites, covering 125 fraudulent products." Some 80 percent of the websites have complied with the FDA's requests, and by mid-June, the rate at which new websites were cropping up had slowed from ten per day to about two per week.

- here's the text of Hamburg's talk
- see our coverage of increased FDA inspections and actions
- see our coverage of H1N1 vaccines and product fakes