Miller obtains injunction barring Americare Inc. from telemarketing to Iowans after seller claims in undercover recording that its human growth hormone product is the "only known product proven to kill cancer cells"
(DES MOINES, Iowa) An Iowa judge Thursday barred a Las Vegas-based company from telemarketing health and nutrition-related products to Iowans, after an undercover phone line recorded telemarketers making unsupported, misleading and illegal claims about its oral spray’s effects on cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other serious diseases and conditions.
Polk County District Court Judge Michael D. Huppert issued an injunction against Americare Inc., doing business as Americare Health, its owner, Mario S. Gonzalez, and two of its telemarketers, Phillip Baker and Nancy Carol Thompson, all believed to reside in the Las Vegas area.
The injunction, part of a consent judgment in which the defendants denied liability, also requires the defendants to refrain from collecting any payments for past sales to Iowans, and to provide refunds to any Iowans who request them.
In April, a Consumer Protection Division undercover phone line recorded Americare telemarketers making what Miller calls outrageous health claims for the company’s human growth hormone (HGH) spray, which the company sells for $249 per bottle.
“The Americare telemarketers claimed its HGH spray prevents cancer and is ‘the only known product that has actually been proven to kill cancer cells,’” Miller said. “They thought they were calling the home of an older Iowan but, in fact, they had called our undercover phone line and were speaking to a staff member recording the call. The claims they made in this hard sell were simply outrageous.”
The call contained numerous false product claims, Miller said. The telemarketers said that using the HGH spray would allow the elderly Iowan to get off all of her other medications, in addition to effectively treating arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and asthma, among other diseases and conditions.
Human Growth Hormone: FDA Regulates for Limited Uses
Human growth hormone is a substance released by the pituitary gland that spurs growth in children and adolescents. Daily HGH secretion increases throughout childhood, peaking during adolescence, and steadily declining thereafter.
- Hormonal deficiency that causes short stature in children
- Long-term treatment of certain conditions resulting in growth failure
- Adult short bowel syndrome
- Muscle-wasting disease associated with HIV/AIDS
According to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) evaluation on human growth hormone, HGH is commonly misused and abused by athletes, bodybuilders, and aging adults for its ability to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat, as well as its purported potential to improve athletic performance and reverse the effects of aging.
FDA: Human Growth Hormone Risks Include Cancer
In a 2012 import alert the FDA issued for HGH, the agency advises that human growth hormone has important benefits, but also serious, known risks. Among HGH’s possible long-term side effects is an increased risk of cancer. Other dangerous side effects have been reported, including nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels. The FDA has not approved HGH for anti-aging uses.
Properly prescribed uses of HGH always involve injections, not pills or sprays. According to the DEA, sprays are useless because the HGH molecule is too large to be absorbed across tissue linings, and pills are useless because the stomach digests HGH before absorption can occur.
In a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consumer advisory on so-called anti-aging products, the FTC reports that some marketers sell “imposter” pills and sprays, claiming that they provide the same benefits as prescription HGH. “FTC staff has seen no reliable evidence to support the claim that these ‘wannabe’ products have the same effect as prescription HGH,” according to the advisory.
General Precautions & Advice
Miller cautions Iowans to be wary of anyone claiming miraculous health benefits for their products, and to be doubly wary when the pitches come from strangers over the phone, or online.
“The travelling snake oil merchants of long ago have modern counterparts, using technology to hawk their elixirs, often to desperate individuals who want to believe,” Miller said. “We stop these abuses when we can, but a healthy dose of skepticism is always good preventive medicine.”
Avoid risking your money – or even your health – on bogus health remedies:
- Those who try to profit from health fraud scams often make claims about preventing, treating or curing various ailments and conditions, and they promote other purported benefits. Claims often involve weight loss, “anti-aging,” arthritis, sexual enhancement, body building, and even life-threatening conditions such as cancer.
- Beware of marketers that trumpet a “miracle cure,” “scientific breakthrough,” “new discovery” and any product that claims a “secret ingredient.”
- Get advice from trusted health professionals who know you and are best situated to evaluate the best treatments for you—particularly if you are currently taking prescription medication.
- With health fraud as with other consumer frauds, if it sounds too good to be true, it is almost certainly not true.
- Some fraudulent health care products can do much more than harm your wallet—they can harm your health. Serious conditions like cancer, diabetes & HIV require individualized treatments by a physician. Unproven products and treatments can be dangerous, and may cause harmful or even life-threatening delays in getting the proper diagnosis and appropriate treatments.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 1-888-777-4590.