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Don’t be fooled by quacks and fake meds

Beware of fake medicines and advertisements touting the purported miracles that stem cell therapy can do. This was the warning aired by former health secretary Esperanza Cabral at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday.

Contrary to what the ads claim, she said, stem cell therapy has not been scientifically proven to cure any disease or make anyone young again. It has been successful in a very few experiments, which is the reason quack doctors are taking advantage of it to make exaggerated claims that the therapy can cure the deadliest diseases known to man.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) very recently issued a similar warning against it.

Stem cell therapy is the process of injecting into patients young cells taken from humans or sheep. The theory is that the young cells will rejuvenate the old cells of the patients and make them young again and cure whatever diseases they have. Although experiments are being conducted, no such results have been achieved. But that does not prevent foreign quack doctors from coming here and making all those exaggerated claims. Sadly, they are aided by some Filipino doctors.

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The reason is that in countries like the Philippines where the people are suckers for miracle cures, stem cell therapy—and other miracle cures—is like a gold mine.

Aging millionaires looking for the fountain of youth pay a lot of money to undergo stem cell therapy. Patients with terminal illnesses like cancer, in a desperate search for a cure, also fall victim to the sales talk and word-of-mouth yarns of so-and-so being cured by the therapy.

But they get neither younger nor cured. And the quack doctors run laughing with their patients’ money all the way to the bank.

A friend told me that he had gone abroad to have stem cell therapy. He said he felt better and stronger after the treatment. “Look at me, don’t I look younger?” he said.

I looked at him. He didn’t look a minute younger and in fact looked the same as when I last saw him, maybe even older.

“My wife said I look younger,” he said. It was his wife who had convinced him to have the stem cell therapy.

There are penalties for false advertising, Cabral said, adding that many Filipinos are being fooled and that she is wondering why the government is not doing anything by way of penalizing the quack doctors.

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Other quacks engaged in false advertising are the manufacturers of herbal medicines. Herbals are now a billion-peso industry, and their manufacturers are raking it in because of the gullibility of Filipinos.

Look at the big billboards along Edsa advertising herbals that claim to cure cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc., as well as the common cold and cough. Name the disease, these herbal manufacturers have a cure for it. But in fact they don’t, and now it is I wondering why the FDA is not issuing a warning to the public.

The excuse of the herbal manufacturers is that they are selling “food supplements,” not “medicines.” But their marketing strategy is like they are selling medicines. Strictly speaking, they are selling nothing but herbs and leaves that can be boiled into tea. But they grind the leaves into powder, make tablets, capsules or syrup out of it, and package the stuff like regular medicines.

The packages contain the statement “No therapeutic claims” as the law mandates, but look at the flyers inside: They make so many claims as though the herbals are a wonder medicine.

When she was health secretary, Cabral tried to correct the situation by requiring a warning in our native tongue, as is being done in other countries. The warning would say in Filipino: “Hindi ito gamot. Hindi ito nakakagaling.” (This is not a medicine. It does not cure.) After all, how many Filipinos know what “No therapeutic claims” means?

But the herbal manufacturers went to court and the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order that remains in effect.

If the herbal manufactures are honest, why don’t they agree to that warning? “No therapeutic claims” is not understood by most Filipinos, and the herbal industry has been able to fool most of them and is making billions of pesos because of it.

* * *

The other guests at the Kapihan were Assistant Commissioner Nelson Aspe of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Undersecretary Vic Dimagiba of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Aspe was asked why the Filipino tycoons and taipans listed by Forbes magazine are not among our top taxpayers. He replied that aside from the tycoons having very smart accountants, what Forbes counted was the wealth of the whole families whereas the BIR has only the income taxes paid by individuals.

On criticisms that the new BIR income tax return is confusing, Aspe said it is because many government agencies ask the bureau for statistics and the ITR was designed to provide these statistics. However, the bureau is continuing to improve the ITR, he said.

Dimagiba was asked: Why is it that when the oil companies raise their fuel prices, the increase is big, but when they lower these, the decrease is small? He replied that the pump prices of fuel reflect the prices in the international market and that the DTI is constantly watching these prices.

* * *

KAPIHAN notes: The lone guest at next Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel is former senator Panfilo Lacson, who has been given by Janet Napoles’ family a list of lawmakers and other government officials who received kickbacks from the pork barrel scam. Janet herself tells in detail how she perpetrated the scam in the documents given to Lacson.

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TAGS: Diamond Hotel, Esperanza Cabral, fake medicines, Food and Drug Administration, kapihan sa manila, Quack Doctors, Stem Cell Therapy
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