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FDA Tells Chesterfield Company To Stop Marketing Supplements As Cures For Diseases

The Food and Drug Administration has warned a St. Louis area company to stop marketing supplements such as omega-3 capsules as potential cures for diseases. It says doing so violates federal law, because supplements aren't FDA-approved drugs.
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The federal Food and Drug Administration has ordered a St. Louis-area natural-remedy retailer to stop making medical claims on its website.

Chesterfield-based Earth Turns, L.L.C. claimed on its website that certain products could cure or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s or diabetes, wrote the FDA in a letter to the company. Retailers are only allowed to make such claims about government-approved drugs, the letter said, and such claims could put patients at risk.

“Simply put, health-fraud scams prey on vulnerable populations, waste money and often delay proper medical care – and we will continue to take action to protect patients and caregivers from misleading, unproven products,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrotein a statement.

Most supplements are not considered drugs because they haven’t gone through the rigorous FDA drug approval process, which can take decades and cost millions.

Instead, supplements are regulated as food. Companies that make claims about the curative benefit of a substance that hasn't gone through the process are essentially marketing it as a drug and violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, FDA officials said.

The FDA notes the Earth Turns website marketed products such as green-tea extract as a potential cure for Alzheimer’s and omega-3 supplements as a possible treatment for heart disease. It also led customers to believe Chinese club moss works just as well as traditional drugs that fight plaques in Alzheimer’s patients, according to the letter.

The crackdown is part of a larger initiative from the agency to combat misleading claims about the effectiveness of dietary supplements to treat disease. The letter to the Chesterfield company was one of 17 the FDA sent to companies it claims are selling misbranded drugs.

Products misbranded as medicine “may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment,” an FDA statement from Feb. 11 said.

Earth Turns Manager Thomas Scheiber said the company would change the language on its website to comply with the FDA rules. Other companies have 15 days to prove they’ve taken steps to correct any marketing that violates federal law. The agency warned companies that they could face legal action if they do not comply.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.