Back in May, I wrote about yet another “cancer wonder drug” called Tumexal. As usual, claims were made by the company that were not supported by real research evidence but only by unreliable testimonials and pseudoscientific verbiage. There were many warning signs of quackery in the company advertising, and my conclusion was this:
TumexalTM is yet another purported wonder drug with a “secret ingredient” that has been discovered by a lone genius and offered to the public out of altruism. It is supposed to be very effective and perfectly safe, and anyone who doesn’t take the company’s word for this is a “cynic” with questionable motives or a lack of compassion. Such claims are cheap and easy to make, but they are worthless without real scientific data, and none are available for TumexalTM. While it is impossible to prove it doesn’t work based on the nothing the company will tell us about it, it is not the job of skeptics to prove such wild, implausible claims untrue. It is the job of those who make them to prove they are valid. Anecdotes aren’t data, and cannot be used to prove a medical therapy is safe and effective. So to date, the company expects us to buy their product and administer it to our ill pets based only on their word for the safety and effectiveness of TumexalTM. Does this seem like a good idea?
Now, the FDA has taken the rare but welcome step of warning the company that produces tumexal to stop making illegal unsupported claims about the product’s safety and efficacy. The FDA has authority to require veterinary medicines be proven to work and to be safe before being marketed, as human medicine must be. But the agency has neither the resources nor the political support to enforce this vigorously, apart from products that in some way affect human health or food safety. However, when a product violates the rules intended to protect the public egregiously enough to draw complaints, sometimes the agency will act.
As I also said in my article on Tumexal, “Unproven remedies are as likely to hurt your pet as to help them, especially when substituted for real medicine. And even in the face of a disease as terrible as cancer, it is possible to make your pet’s life worse by rolling the dice on a snake oil like Tumexal.” The fact that the FDA has taken this action illustrates how irresponsible and dangerous the behavior of this company has been in selling snake oil as if it were real medicine for pets with cancer.