Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mexico bans “miracle cure” ads

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Snake oil

You don’t hear much of Mexico these days, unless it’s about more Drug War cartel violence or Republicans kvetching about illegal immigration. But here’s something to make us all a little more envious:

Mexico enacted tough new rules Thursday to ban advertising of "miracle cures" for weight loss, sagging body parts and more serious illnesses like prostate ailments, chronic fatigue and even cancer.

Mexico has a long history of faith healers and home remedies, but the problem has come to a head in the last few years with a constant stream of ads on television for more "scientific" sounding creams that supposedly lift or enlarge breast and buttocks, magnets that help users lose weight, or pills and powders that cure gastric problems or diabetes.

In a country with levels of diabetes and obesity among the highest in the world, the combination of a sick population and fake cures can be deadly.

"This is a fraud," said regulator Mikel Arriola, whose Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks is the agency in charge of regulating pharmaceuticals in Mexico. "It is a very serious public health problem, because people take these things instead of going to the doctor ... they lose time in getting treatment or getting cured."

Exactly right. It’s a common refrain from quackery advocates – “So what if it doesn’t have any proven benefits? It’s not like it harms anyone!” – and it’s refreshing and necessary to see such wrongful and dangerous thinking debunked whenever possible. Ask any of the countless currently terminal patients who might have been saved if only they had received actual help from actual medical experts rather than resort to snake oil from bullshit-peddlers.

Good on Mexico. Here’s hoping other regions follow its example.

(via Skeptic)