Straight, No Chaser: Medical Myths, Health Fraud Scams and Your Boogie Men
I feel your frustration everyday. You call me, and you text me. You send me articles and ask my opinion on the newest health claim on the Internet. That’s right, I’m your information and advice guy. Thus, please allow me to offer you some basic principles to help you in your analysis of what you’re reading.
First and foremost, please be careful to appreciate that everything you read (especially on the Internet) isn’t factual. There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation. What’s worse, it’s everywhere. The Internet often provides you just enough information to confuse you, misdirect you, steer you toward someone’s agenda or paralyze you into inactivity.
I see at least 20 posts everyday on the Internet that, because they’re spoken with confidence or certainty, you take them as truth. Without regard to the source, you’re willing to try or do things that if you actually understood some basic anatomy, physiology or chemistry, you’d ignore – especially when tried and true methods (that you aren’t utilizing) are available to you.
This propensity to present opinions and misinformation as facts is part of what’s changed in society. For as scary and odd as it seems while you’re watching, pharmaceutical companies’ commercials are ethical enough to tell you risk factors, side effects and then advise you to discuss the products with your physicians. These Internet articles and sales pitches assert that they, the authors (or salesmen), alone know the truth, and that everyone else, including your government and your physicians are part of some global conspiracy.
Here’s the deal.
Medicine – or at least the way in which physicians treat patients – is largely based on science. The standard of evidenced-based medicine depends on a preponderance of evidence accumulated over multiple studies of a certain caliber (randomized, double-blinded, peer reviewed). New evidence accumulated over multiple studies can cause incremental changes in thinking and treatment strategies. Therefore, your physicians aren’t going off the grid to make recommendations or provide treatment. Safety considerations necessitate proof that the medicines you’re taking or the procedures being done to you aren’t unnecessarily placing you in danger.
You may note that this leaves some room for new discovery, because the last paragraph is not the same as saying that if it hasn’t been researched, it’s not safe. What can be said is the safety and efficacy of certain medicines and procedures can’t be verified, because they haven’t been adequately researched (i.e., the scientific method). This is something often noted about many herbal medications. That’s right: the absence of evidence isn’t always evidence of absence.
Different still is how certain other claims are made. Medical scams and frauds are often perpetrated on the public, and agenda-based fears are presented as if opinions are facts, even in the face of volumes of evidence to the contrary. Claims arguing that immunization will cause the disease from which you’re being protect or that vaccines will cause other conditions such as autism are examples of this.
So, the next time you come across a sensational article that refutes everything that you had previously known or some medical cure than your physician hasn’t shared with you, take a deep breath and ask yourself if it’s possible that you’re being asked to respond to your fears instead of actual medical science.
Now let’s empower you. Here are some tips to help you the next time you’re presented with something alleging to be a miracle cure. Keep in mind that those aiming to perpetrate a scam are attempting to play upon your insecurities. Thus, scams tend to focus on conditions about which you hold fear, including the following:
- Obesity, with promises of rapid and sustainable weight loss
- Impotence, with the promise of a return to peak sexual performance
- Memory loss
- Miracle cures for serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis
- It includes claims that “One product does it all,” alleging to treat multiple diseases.
- It involves personal testimonials instead of scientific evidence.
- It claims quick fixes for chronic diseases (such as cancer or obesity).
- The product is “all natural.” Remember these types of products haven’t been subject to the rigors of medical testing by the FDA and could actually contain dangerous levels of the same active ingredients as in prescription medicines.
- It’s a “Miracle cure, Scientific breakthrough, Secret ingredient, New Discovery.” Please pay attention. If a truly innovative cure for a serious disease were discovered, it would be on the front page of the papers and would be the lead story on the news, not the topic of an infomercial or an Internet promotion.
- It’s the answer to a conspiracy theory. Claims like “The pharmaceutical industry and the government are working together to hide information about a miracle cure” are always untrue and unfounded. These statements are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common sense questions about the so-called miracle cure.
So lower your stress levels and let the boogiemen go. You’re not going to find a miracle cure in a bottle. Even more importantly, don’t forget that you’re not alone in pursuit of protecting your health. Your healthcare team already knows the variety of medical options available and chooses the best one for you from those choices. You also have access to healthcare information and advice from www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com and 844-SMA-TALK (844-762-8255). You’re not alone in your effort to live a better, healthier life. Keep in mind the years of education your physicians obtained to practice medicine. Let that provide you with confidence and guide you when deciding where to get honest and accurate answers.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
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