WASHINGTON -- Federal health officials are cracking down on bogus pills and supplements that their makers claim will cure or prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, herpes and genital warts.
The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it has sent warning letters to a dozen companies selling non-prescription products with names like Medavir, Herpaflor and C-Cure. The agency said none of the products have been proven to treat any disease.
"These products are dangerous because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions, where treatment options proven to be safe and effective are available," said Deborah Autor, FDA's director of drug compliance, in a statement.
FDA scientists warned that patients could waste time taking them and delay seeking medical care. Most of the products are sold over the Internet, though some may be available at drugstores.
"Health scams that endanger the public health will not be tolerated," said Richard Cleland, assistant director for advertising at the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC and FDA both oversee advertising of health care products and announced Tuesday's action together.
A website for Medavir, made by Medavir Medical Advances, claims that the product "has been proven effective in several official university research studies – including an official FDA trial."
But the FDA has never approved any non-prescription products for sexually transmitted disease, according to federal officials. Drugs are available for herpes, chlamydia, HIV and other diseases, but only via prescription. The viruses that cause herpes and HIV are incurable, though symptoms can be managed with medication.
A website for Arenvy Laboratories' ImmuneGlory solution claims the product "strengthens your immune system so that herpes or cold sores have nowhere to hide." Calls placed to both companies were not immediately returned.
The companies cited by the FDA will have 15 days to take their products off the market. If they do not, the agency can take legal action, including seizing the products and taking company officials to court.
Federal law requires all products that claim to treat a disease to undergo federal scientific review. Dietary supplements that make health claims are required to bear the disclaimer: "This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA."