From Boston to botox, the newspapers and internet are full of advertisements promising miracle cures for everything from memory loss to weight loss. More often than not, these miracles are based upon unproven science and the claims of pseudo scientists who promise the moon for pennies on the dollar. More often than not these claims are not only false, they can be downright deadly.
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Las Vegas wrongful death attorneys are paying close attention to the case of Chelsea Patricia Ake-Salvacion who died on October 20th in a cryotherapy chamber located within the Rejuvenice Cryotherapy Spa. The spa located within unincorporated Clark County advertised the treatment as a way to treat everything from multiple sclerosis to rheumatoid arthritis. According to the spa, it’s also good for toning skin, warding off wrinkles, and losing those extra holiday pounds.
It is also potentially lethal as individuals are exposed to extreme low temperatures that can easily lead to frostbite and death within a matter of moments. Even worse, in Nevada cryotherapy and many other miracle cures are largely unregulated. In the case of Rejuvenice Cryotherapy, the Nevada Board of Cosmetology ordered the spa to close not because they were offering an unproven treatment, but because they did not have a license to perform skin treatments and the aesthetician services they were providing such as facials and manicures.
In fact, investigators from the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration have determined that Ake-Salvacion’s death was not the result of a dangerous and unproven therapy, but rather that she erred in using the chamber for personal use during after-hours operation.
Once called “snake oil” by “medicine men” who roamed the prairie, unproven therapies and medicine can include everything from cryochambers to herbal supplements. Common and easily purchased from many health and nutrition stores, supplements such as St. John’s Wort, Kava, and Comfrey have known side-effects and cause adverse, potentially lethal reactions when combined with other medications. Further, the benefits of these supplements in treating various medical conditions are often unproven, and in some cases, taking these supplements can cause irreversible damage to the body’s organs. Thus, while patients assume they’re treating a particular medical condition, the reality is that they are setting themselves up for serious, often lethal medical conditions down the road.
Under the rule sof the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that was signed into law in 1994, the FDA requires little from herbal manufacturers or distributors. As long as they show independent research that shows that they are not being deliberately false or misleading in their advertising, they may sell practically anything they want to the American consumer. Further, the FDA has no oversight of the evidence or claims these manufacturers make. As long as they are registered in accordance with the Bioterrorism Act and follow rudimentary production control standards, then they have virtually free reign to sell what they want to whomever is willing to purchase it. There is no requirement whatsoever for them to substantiate safety or effectiveness. Worse still, the 1994 law effectively gives manufacturers permission to market their products as safe until someone else proves otherwise.
Combined, lack of regulation and oversight puts consumers at risk. It’s very much a “buyer beware” marketplace when it comes to everything from beauty treatments to alternative medical therapies. While some may provide some benefit, the reality is that most do not. Following years of pressure from the professional medical community, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration have finally begun to scrutinize the herbal and alternative therapies being marketed to consumers. They have concluded that every year the consumption of herbal supplements results in more than 20,000 ER visits. Of these emergencies, more than 10% require hospitalization. It is unclear how many of these result in fatalities because hospitals are not required to record or report this information.
The majority of the patients being sent to the ER are between the ages of 20-34. The most frequent cause for these trips are the consumption of herbal supplements and the use of unregulated and unproven medical therapies, including cryotherapy to help with everything from weight loss to energy enhancement.
Moreover, states are beginning to take the lead in the fight against dangerous supplements being sold to consumers. Oregon’s Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against GNC claiming the company is selling supplements which contain the ingredients picamilon and BMPEA which are not approved for sale within the United States. This follows a similar suit filed by New York’s Attorney General earlier this year which claims companies including Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and others are selling products that do not contain the advertised ingredients.
Ultimately, the old mantra of “Buyer Beware” is one consumers should follow closely. It’s the best way to ensure a trip to the health store doesn’t become a trip to the ER or morgue.