Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Miracle Cure":If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Revivotea's homepage (now with a disclaimer about AIDS treatment)

The banning of the advert 21 Aug 09

TAC calls for tough action :

TAC's criticism of the ANC youth league for advertising the tea on its website:

The ANC youth league's home page :

A linked site claiming that Revivotea is treatment for HIV:

In the last few days there has been publicity over the banning of advertisements for Revivotea, a chinese herbal tea which claims to have benefits for HIV and AIDS. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled on 21st August that the claims that this tea could treat HIV or cure it had no scientific basis.

A number of links are posted at the top of the blog - go and check this out yourself. This makes an excellent case for informed decision making. The internet is jammed full of websites claiming to offer natural products, or chinese products which can cure HIV. Just like the Ponzi scheme milked a lot of rich folks of millions of rands: if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is.

I have had a number of patients ask me if a particular product really is a cure for HIV. Here are a few tips of mine to scrutinise a product/website to see if it may be reliable:

1) If the product claims to cure, then it's dodgy. Believe me, if there really was a cure for HIV, and a potential to make money from it - then it would be all over the media. Why would somebody who holds a cure to HIV only be peddling their wares on a website?
2) Check out the English and the terminology used - if this is a badly translated version of a chinese website, then treat it with scepticism. A truly scientific, reputable product will use clear and correct terminology. Also look out for vague but fantastic claims ; "miracle cure" '"Wonder drug" "Natural cure". These are not scientific terms, they are marketing ploys.
3) If the product is to be bought online: remember, somebody is making a profit and it is in their interests to make the product sound incredible.
4) Look for the contact details and 'About us' section - funny how it seems that alot of the dodgier products are only interested to sell you the product. They do not offer any form of customer service line, no option to email them for information, no details about who the people are. No contact details, no information? Dont fall for it.
5) Look at the science quoted: it is very easy to make your product appear scientific. Most people do not have the medical background to interpret scientific results and be able to critically appraise the validity of a claim. Look for the publication title (eg Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency), often there will be no journal or publication listed at all. Look for vague claims of "we have tested hundreds of patients" or " our research showed that product x reduced HIV". Valid research will be referenced, will have defined numbers, measurable outcomes and logical conclusions. Finally, research it yourself. Use a site like SUMSEARCH and put in keywords to pull out scientific publications from a number of reputable locations.
Check out this link to the Revivotea website with a pseudoscientific claim that traditional chinese medicine can control HIV
6) Remember that the internet does not have an advertising standards authority. This means that anyone can mak e a claim on a website to offer a 'miracle cure'. There is no watchdog that tests these claims before it is published on the net.
(Where's the harm in fake AIDS cures:
7) Just because a product has a patent doesnt mean it has been proven effective. You can patent anything. Patenting simply protects your ownership of the product, it has nothing to do with the effectiveness of it. Check out this patent of silver device as a 'cure for AIDS' :