NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The Federal Trade Commission, warning consumers to beware of medical quackery on the Internet, announced settlements Thursday with several companies that allegedly advertised "miracle cures" for sale online.
According to the FTC, the four Web sites have been peddling items such as shark cartilage capsules, which were billed as cancer and AIDS fighters, and magnetic therapy devices that were said to treat cancer, high blood pressure and other ailments.
"Miracle cures, once thought to be laughed out of existence, have found a new medium," Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said at a Washington news conference. "Consumers now spend millions on unproven, deceptively marketed products on the Web."
The FTC said the companies that agreed to settlements are the Arthritis Pain Care Center, which marketed CMO, a fatty acid derived from beef tallow that was said to cure arthritis; Body Systems Technology Inc., which sold shark cartilage capsules and other items; Magnetic Therapeutic Technologies Inc. and Pain Stops Here! Inc., two companies that both promoted magnetic therapy devices.
The FTC said that through surveys conducted in 1997 and 1998, it uncovered about 800 Web sites that contained questionable advertisements for medical treatments.
Following the 1998 survey, FTC staff then sent the Web sites e-mail messages, alerting them that their claims require scientific substantiation. The FTC said that about 28 percent of the sites have either removed their claims or had been taken down.
According to FTC statistics, nearly 22.3 million adults sought health and medical information online as of December 1998, making medical content the sixth most popular type of information researched on the Internet.