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Health Watch - Avoiding Healthcare Scams

POSTED June 22, 2011 12:39 a.m.
We are all concerned about our health and we want to find the answer to staying young and healthy. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix or easy answer! Health care fraud and scams play on our desire for an easy fix to problems such as obesity, stress, and even serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
Using psychology and fancy marketing, scammers try to fool us into believing that their product will cure everything from wrinkles to cancer. Health fraud scams can cause us to waste our money on products that often do not live up to their claims. These products can also delay the time we take to seek legitimate treatment from a physician for our health problems. Some can actually harm us and they might even interfere with prescription medications, causing serious side effects.
Fraudulent health care products often make unproven claims and suggestions about weight loss, arthritis, “aches and pains,” and memory loss. They may even claim to “cure” diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s. They are often very expensive.
Learning to recognize a possible health care scam will help you to avoid them. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers a few tips to keep you from falling victim to these scammers.

• One product that does it all or claims to cure a wide range of diseases.
Most serious diseases or health problems are a result of many factors and need to be assessed by a physician to find the right combination of treatment and medications to improve the condition.

• Personal testimonies.
Those success stories by “real people” are often nothing more than actors who are trying to convince you that the product is worth the money you spend. These testimonies are no substitute for care from a physician based on proven treatments and scientific research.

• Quick fixes.
Be very wary of promises that a product can bring “instant” or fast relief to a health problem. Even with proven medical treatment, most conditions take time to improve.

• Claims that the product is “natural.”
This is the latest trend in getting your attention and suggests that the product is safer than conventional treatment. Terms such as “all natural, organic, or green” are unclear and not well regulated. There are many products found in nature that can cause serious harm and may interfere with other medications that have been prescribed for you. Any product that is potent enough to work like a drug is also going to have serious side effects.

• “Miracle cure” or a “new discovery.”
If a product were actually a real cure for a serious health condition, it would have been studied scientifically, reported in the media and health care literature, and regularly prescribed by your doctor or other health care professionals. It would not be hidden in a newspaper ad or television infomercial, sold at a booth, mailed to your home, or e-mailed to you.

The people behind these scams try to deceive us by making their products sound great when there is no evidence that they will actually improve your health. It is tempting to believe such claims but falling for these scams can have serious consequences. Always check with your physician before taking any medication or starting any treatment to improve your health care. For more information about health fraud, go to www.fda.gov/healthfraud.

Susan Spoelma, MBA, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, is the Chief Nursing Officer for Oak Valley Hospital. Look for the Health Watch column each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.

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