An international sweep of health related websites has uncovered more than a thousand sites that carry misleading information or make false claims, the British Medical Journal reports in a recent edition.
The UK Office of Fair Trading, the Medicines Control Agency, and 21 local trading standards authorities took part in the investigation, which was carried out internationally by the International Marketing Supervision Network.
More than 170 UK based websites were identified as potentially misleading. More than a third of these promoted slimming aids, while others offered treatments for cancer, arthritis, sexual performance and hair loss.
One offered a tablet that, the site claimed, would prevent a "beer belly" if taken at the same time as drinking alcohol. Another, also under investigation, claimed to obliterate all viruses in the body, including HIV, hepatitis, meningitis, and flu as well as cancer.
The Office of Fair Trading recommends that customers be cautious about products offering a cure-all for a wide range of ailments, testimonials claiming amazing results, and advertisements using phrases such as "scientific breakthrough" and "secret ingredient." It suggests consulting a pharmacist or health professional before buying such products.