Magazine article USA TODAY

How to Avoid Quacks and Cure-Alls

Magazine article USA TODAY

How to Avoid Quacks and Cure-Alls

Article excerpt

Because health is at the forefront of concerns among many older Americans, they are seen as much more vulnerable to unorthodox treatments, often affording quacks an opportunity to make money off seniors. Such "miracle cures" or treatments usually are expensive and quickly deplete their bank accounts.

James Mold, associate professor of family medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, explains the reasons the elderly are susceptible to charlatans. "First, mature Americans tend to trust physicians more than younger people [do]. Younger people are more likely to question medical advice, whereas older people assume a physician knows what he or she is talking about and accepts it at face value. Secondly, seniors just have more medical problems, and many of [them] aren't easily solved. So, they're looking for that one doctor who can help them when nobody else has been able to, or that one medicine that will solve a problem when nothing else has."

Medical treatments for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes generally are clearcut, and most seniors know that "miracle cures" don't exist. It's more common ailments that present an opportunity to quacks.

"The most common problems that quacks focus on are everyday types of pain . . . such as headaches and backaches, as well as common symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness. These chronic, uncomfortable ailments often are very difficult to diagnose and resolve. That's when people might be tempted to go shopping for some type of relief that their physician hasn't been able to provide. …

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