If you want to start a business selling herbal or dietary supplements there’s nothing to stop you. Make whatever claims you want, include any promises you see fit, there are virtually no regulations on this industry.
Want to claim it cures or prevents cancer? Go for it! Promise it will cleanse your body of chemotherapy? Why not? Take it every day and you’ll lose 20 pounds a month? Sounds good! Helps guys get and keep an erection (though if it lasts more than four hours, call a physician)? Add that to the list!
An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 23,000 people end up in the emergency room each year suffering from heart palpitations, chest pain, choking or other problems after ingesting dietary supplements. Most of them were young adults, children or the elderly, reports the Washington Post.
These substances are a gold mine for those peddling these mystery pills and powders.
- It’s been estimated that half of U.S. adults used at least one dietary supplement in the past month, and
- As of 2012 there were more than 55,000 of these products on the market.
The most recent infamous case of herbal supplement abuse and hospitalization is former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Lamar Odom. He was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after ingesting cocaine, alcohol, and since he didn’t want to disappoint the two prostitutes he hired, multiple doses of an “herbal Viagra” called Reload.
There are few legal barriers to starting such a business, but there are obstacles if and when you attain some success despite your false claims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency that enforces consumer protection law, recently filed a lawsuit against Roca Labs, Inc., a Florida based peddler of supposed weight loss powders and goo (these miraculous products are advertised as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery). The FTC estimates that there are enough suckers out there to purchase $20 million of these products since 2010.
Roca got FTC’s attention not only because of its false claims but the fact it was offering discounts to those posting positive online reviews and threatening to sue those who posted negative online reviews.
I’m not a physician or a nutritionist, but in my opinion I think using these things is like playing Russian roulette. There are probably no studies showing a product is safe or effective and no information on what may happen if you take more than one supplement and/or medications at the same time.
We cancer patients and survivors can be a very desperate bunch, a potential group of customers these businesses will be more than happy to exploit. Before using any vitamin, herbal supplement or drug, talk to your doctor, not the person on the other end of the herbal supplement maker’s 800 number.