Seven Ways to Spot Fake Flu Fighting Products
The 2013 flu season is one of the worst on record leading some unscrupulous people to begin selling fraudulent flu products. These unproven cures and treatments do not work against the influenza virus, and in some cases, could potentially be harmful to health.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a warning to the public about online and retail shops that are selling fraudulent flu products, including products marketed as dietary supplements, nasal sprays and other devices.
“As any health threat emerges, fraudulent products appear almost overnight,” says Gary Coody, RPh, the FDA’s national health fraud coordinator. “Right now, so-called ‘alternatives’ to the flu vaccine are big with scammers.”
“These unproven products give consumers a false sense of security,” adds Mary Malarkey, director of FDA’s Office of Compliance and Biologics Quality.
There are no legally marketed over-the-counter drugs to prevent or cure the flu. (NOTE: there are OTC products that can help reduce fever and relieve some symptoms associated with the flu, such as muscle aches and congestion, but none will claim to “cure” the flu.)
Red flags that should alert consumers of a potentially fraudulent “flu-fighting” product include claims that the product will:
• Reduce severity and length of flu
• Boost your immunity naturally without a flu shot
• Prevent one from catching the flu
• Provide faster recovery from flu
• Support your body’s natural immune defenses to fight off flu
• or is a safe and effective alternative to flu vaccine or flu medication, such as Tamiflu or Relenza (There is no FDA-approved generic for either of these medications, although some online pharmacies are selling unapproved antiviral products that claim to be generic equivalents.)
"With unapproved products, you really don't know what you're getting and can't be sure of the quality,” says Connie Jung RpH, PhD of the FDA’s Office of Drug Security. “The products could be counterfeit, contaminated, or have the wrong active ingredient or no active ingredient. You could experience a bad reaction, or not receive the drug you need to get better."
Ms. Malarkey adds that there is absolutely no need to buy alternatives to the flu vaccine when vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease. “Flu vaccine is still available and it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” she says.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Beware of Fraudulent Flu Products", February 2013