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Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

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Attorney General Joins State & Federal Agencies in Surfing Internet for Fraudulent Web Sites Marketing Bioterrorism-Related Products & Services

November 19, 2001

Attorney General Hardy Myers today warned Oregonians against web site operators fraudulently pushing deceptive products that claim to protect against, detect, prevent, or treat biological and chemical agents, including anthrax. The announcement is part of coordinated Internet surf recently conducted by Myers and 29 other attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Food and Drug Commission (FDA), and the California Department of Health Services.

"When it comes to combating deceptive and misleading promotions on the Internet, the most effective tool is combining forces with other law enforcement agencies," Myers said. "Not only did the coordinated surf allow us to target a much wider range of scams but participants were able to avoid duplication of efforts by each agency looking for specific triggering terms."

The project, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, found sites touting products and therapies that claim to prevent, treat, or cure anthrax, smallpox, and other health hazards. More than 200 sites marketing bioterrorism related products were uncovered and 40 site operators have received FTC e-mail warning letters to immediately pull the information. Non-complying operators face prosecution for violating both state and federal laws.

Sites being evaluated for prosecution included such items as gas masks and protective suits, mail sterilizers, biohazard test kits, homeopathic remedies, dietary supplements such as colloidal silver, zinc mineral water, thyme and oregano oil as treatments for biological agents.

"These unscrupulous marketers are targeting consumers worried about being exposed to lethal biological or chemical weapons such as anthrax or small pox," Myers said. "Federal experts are aware of no scientific basis for any of the self-treatment alternatives being marketed on the Internet. The best advice for Oregon consumers is to immediately consult a physician if they believe they may have been exposed to a biological agent."

A broad coalition of trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry also have joined the FTC and FDA in indicating that there is no scientific basis for the promotion of dietary supplements as a treatment for anthrax.

Myers' consumer protection office also participated in an earlier Internet surf of web sites selling CIPRO and CIPRO-related business opportunities. The project was coordinated by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Oregonians visiting sites on the Internet should be wary of promotions featuring testing kits for anthrax, exotic potions and pills, special curative diets, magnetic, light or electrical devices, or newly discovered treatments containing questionable claims about the effectiveness and safety of these products or services.

"The only known effective treatments for biological agents like anthrax or smallpox are approved prescription drugs and vaccines," Myers emphasized.

Consumers considering purchasing Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and other antibiotics online to treat anthrax are advised to:

  • Talk to health care professions before using any medications.
  • Know the seller. Most web sites are not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy and could be selling ineffective drugs.
  • Don't do business with web sites that do not give buyers access to pharmacists to answer questions.
  • Avoid sites that do not provide a name, physical business address and phone number.
  • Do not purchase drugs from foreign web sites.
  • Always obtain prescriptions from either your regular medical provider or following a bonified medical examination from a licensed practitioner.

Consumers wanting more information on bioterrorism may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. The Oregon Department of Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.

For more information from the federal government about treatments for anthrax, visit www.consumer.gov and the FDA at www.fda.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-INFO-FDA. Information on bioterrorism and public health preparedness from the national Center for Disease Control (CDC) is available at www.bt.cdc.gov and by telephone at 1-800-311-3435. Information about the role of complimentary and alternative medicine in prevention or treatment of diseases is available through the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at NIH, www.nccam.nih.gov.

Contact:

Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) jan.margosian@doj.state.or.us |
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