Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS
Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS
Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS, received her PharmD degree from the University of Tennessee at Memphis in 1999, after completing a BS at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She started her pharmacy career in retail and has practiced in home health, long-term care, and hospital pharmacy. She has also been blogging as the Blonde Pharmacist since 2004, focusing on education for peers and provider status for pharmacists.

Medical Claims Made Without Evidence

JANUARY 19, 2016
Just about every day, the news is filled with claims of treating disease and curing cancer with supplements and oils.
 
The thing that most consumers miss is that in order to back up these claims, clinical studies are needed to prove that they are legitimate. After you read a study claiming a certain result, you have to analyze the study in order to determine whether it was carried out correctly.

If you are on Facebook and your friends are posting about something that is making them money, then their claims are likely biased. The lure of easy money can entice even an educated health care professional to claim that a product can cure ADHD, and that is where it gets very dicey for me.
 
When someone uses his or her education to tout something that has no true scientific evidence supporting its general claims, I cringe. I see the hashtag #doyoutrustme and I wonder about the ethics behind it.
 
I don’t have anything against anyone who is desperate to try non-FDA-approved products, but when you start claiming cures without scientific evidence, things get a bit cloudy—especially when you are using your medical degree to back up those claims.

Using Plexus Slim as an example, here are some of the questions you should ponder in order to determine whether a product’s claim is true:

Claim: Plexus Slim helps with high blood sugar, prehypertension, vertigo, fatigue/low energy, sugar cravings, chronic pain, weight, anxiety, headaches, and high cholesterol.
  1. Is there a medical study on the product?
  2. Is the journal where the study was published ranked? Is it peer reviewed?
  3. Is the study biased? Was it put together in such a way to show the actual research results, or was it put together to conclude what the manufacturer wanted it to?
  4. What is the sample size? If a study only involved 15 participants, it does not hold much weight in making claims.
  5. Are the results repeatable? Can others repeat the same study and arrive at the same results?
  6. Is the study valid? Were the sample groups randomized? Was the study designed include all steps of the scientific research method? Does it have internal validity?
  7. Are there any other possible causal relationships to explain the results? External validity looks at this process.
To me, the most disturbing statement on the Plexus Slim website is the claim that it can help with weight loss and lower blood glucose, lipids, and cholesterol, despite the fact that a disclaimer at the bottom of the same website says, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.”
 
Yet, companies like Plexis are paying product ambassadors to make these claims on social media without consequences. Even with the disclaimer, the company should still be held liable for its claims. Otherwise, show me the studies.

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