NEWS RELEASE
Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.


November 21, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

MARYLAND, FTC CRACK DOWN ON MARKETERS OF BOGUS BIOTERRORISM DEFENSE AGENTS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., joined the Federal Trade Commission in warning Web site operators who suggest using such things as oregano oil or zinc mineral water to treat illnesses like anthrax that it is aware of no scientific proof for such claims and they must pull them off the Internet. After a coordinated Internet "surf" found sites touting products and therapies that claim to prevent, treat, or cure anthrax, smallpox, and other health hazards, the FTC has sent about 40 e-mail warnings telling operators of these sites to immediately pull the information.

The warning campaign is based on information gathered via a coordinated Internet surf by the FTC with the help of the Food & Drug Administration, more than 30 state Attorney General offices, and the California Department of Health Services. The Internet search focused on products claiming to protect against, detect, prevent, or treat biological and chemical agents, including anthrax. More than 200 sites marketing bioterrorism related products were uncovered, and additional sites are being evaluated for possible warning letters. Included in the review were such items as gas masks and protective suits; mail sterilizers; biohazard test kits; homeopathic remedies; and dietary supplements such as colloidal silver, zinc mineral water, thyme, and oregano oil as treatments for biological agents. Web sites may be subject to state or federal investigation or prosecution for making deceptive or misleading marketing claims that their products can protect against, detect, prevent, or treat biological or chemical contamination.

"The marketing that is taking place on the Internet is designed to prey on people’s fear in the wake of the events of September 11," Attorney General Curran said. "While this surf yielded no evidence of any Maryland companies engaged in such marketing practices, we continue to remain vigilant and caution Maryland consumers to do the same."

In addition, both the FDA and a broad coalition of trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry have indicated that there is no scientific basis for the promotion of dietary supplements as a treatment for anthrax.

For consumers who visit Web sites or receive e-mails claiming to sell products to protect against, detect, prevent, or treat anthrax, small pox, or other biological or chemical health hazzards, the Attorney General and the FTC recommend:

  • Be wary of unscrupulous marketers who use cyberspace to peddle "miracle" treatments and cures to vulnerable consumers. Many of the ads and websites, which feature exotic potions and pills, special curative diets, strange magnetic or electrical devices, or newly discovered treatments, contain questionable claims about the effectiveness and safety of these products or services. The only known effective treatments for biological agents like anthrax or smallpox are approved prescription drugs and vaccines.
  • Be a savvy Internet shopper. For additional information, visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/frdheal.htm and http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/cybrspce/index.html.

For consumers who visit Web sites and receive e-mails claiming to sell Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and other antibiotics to treat anthrax, Curran reminds them that under Maryland law, medications such as Cipro cannot be sold without a prescription.

In addition to Maryland and the FTC, partners in this bioterrorism surf included the Food and Drug Administration; offices of the Attorney General of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming; District of Columbia Office of the Corporation Counsel; and California Department of Health Services.

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