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FDA: 2 Naperville companies touting unproven cancer treatments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid 65 bogus products hawked on the internet with false claims they can cure, treat or prevent cancer. | AP

The federal Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid more than 65 bogus cancer-fighting products and ordering 14 companies, including two based in Naperville, to drop their fraudulent health claims or face stiff penalties.

Oxygen Health Systems LLC and The Vitamin C Foundation were among those the FDA singled out this week as illegally selling products on the internet that falsely claim “to prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate or cure cancer.

“The products are marketed and sold without FDA approval, most commonly on websites or social media platforms,” according to the federal drug safety watchdog agency. “They have not been reviewed by FDA for safety and efficacy and can be dangerous to both people and pets.”

“Consumers should not use these or similar unproven products because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment,” said Douglas W. Stearn, director of the FDA’s Office of Enforcement and Import Operations.

Neither company’s top executives — Michael Carroll at Oxygen Health and Owen Fonorow at The Vitamin C Foundation — responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Angela Stark, an FDA spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the agency identifies companies and products making false or misleading claims “through tactics such as market surveys, undercover buys, label reviews, reviewing adverse-event reports and testing of products.”

Stark said the FDA has gotten reports of “adverse events” about some of the products sold by the 14 cited companies but declined to provide details.

Between them, the two suburban companies sell a total of 15 products for which they’ve made unproven cancer-fighting claims, according to the FDA. One of those products —  Liposomal Vitamin C, touted by Oxygen Health as being “helpful for: colds, flu, cancer . . . and diabetes” — has led to adverse-event reports, according to an FDA online database.

The reports were made in 2013 and 2014, but the database didn’t specify where the report was made or where the product was sold. Also, the database listed reports made only between January 2004 and December 2016.

Among the other products Oxygen Health sells is Laetrile, which it describes as “one of the most popular and best known alternative cancer treatments,” though it’s not approved by the FDA and, according to the National Cancer Institute, “has shown little anticancer effect in laboratory studies, animal studies or human studies.” The federal cancer agency also says its side effects are “like the symptoms of cyanide poisoning.”

The FDA called the untested and unproven pills, creams and teas — often advertised as safe, natural products or dietary supplements — a “cruel deception.” It said many of them make unfounded and illegal claims such as “miraculously kills cancer cells in tumors,” “more effective than chemotherapy” and “treats all forms of cancer.”