Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Internet Is Putting Quackery on Line, U.S. Agency Warns FDA Considers Regulations for Cyberspace

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Internet Is Putting Quackery on Line, U.S. Agency Warns FDA Considers Regulations for Cyberspace

Article excerpt

Medical quackery has infected the Internet, and suffering surfers should be on guard, the federal Food and Drug Administration warns.

The Internet not only gives access to the reports published in top medical journals but also includes sites that make phony claims such as that positive thinking "can change your genetic base," the FDA said.

The agency is considering regulating information on cyberspace, but the drug industry is telling it to back off. "I don't think we need extra guidance," responded David Vance of the drug maker Glaxo Wellcome Inc. "We can't protect the idiot." But doctors say that makes it hard for patients to separate science from quackery. Dr. Sarah Stein of Stanford University urged the government not to forget "the vulnerability of sick people, searching for information at a time they are overwhelmed." Part of the Internet's appeal is that anybody can set up a home page and start publishing. No expertise is required, and web sites, unlike books and articles in professional periodicals, are unedited, not subjected to prior review and rarely give authenticating information such as citations of related material. The FDA lacks the authority to sort out all the conflicts. The Federal Trade Commission already is working with 39 state attorneys general to determine broader regulation of Internet fraud, said Renardo Hicks, Pennsylvania's deputy attorney general. Yet the FDA does regulate how manufacturers of drugs and medical devices promote their therapies to prevent having people misled about the value of medical. The FDA is determining how to take its rules into cyberspace. Consumer advocate Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen cited a drug company president who told stock analysts that his experimental pain killer would turn competitors "into dinosaurs." The quote appeared on the Internet, but nobody knows if the company put it there because the Internet is largely anonymous. The question also remains open where the FDA will draw the line between hype and detailed information needed to decide whether to volunteer for clinical trials of experimental drugs. …

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