The Truth About Choosing Medical Treatments
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is
part of the United States Government. It is FDA's job to
make sure drugs and other medical treatments work and are
Choosing Treatments to Get Better
When you're sick it isn't always easy to get
well again. There are lots of medicines and other ways to
treat health problems.
You may hear about some from a friend. Or
you may see an ad on TV or in the paper. Or your doctor
may recommend a treatment.
It's FDA's job to make sure the medicines
and other treatments people buy are safe and really work.
Most treatments you can buy have FDA's OK. But some don't.
An FDA-approved medicine may help you get better.
Some are phony and are a waste of your money.
Some can even make you sicker. Just because a product is
advertised doesn't mean it can really do what the ad says
A phony medicine may make you sicker.
Sometimes there are no treatments with FDA's
OK that will help you. This is mainly true for very bad
sicknesses like some cancers and AIDS, or with sicknesses
that last a long time like arthritis. Then you might hear
about a treatment that's still being tested.
There are many unproven treatments. Some
you may have heard of are:
- imagery (With imagery, you learn to imagine yourself
in a certain way. For example, you might be guided to
think of yourself as very strong and healthy and think
of your sickness as weak and easy to destroy.)
- biofeedback (You try to make yourself better by learning
to control body functions like your heart rate, temperature,
There are many unproven treatments. They may work or they may not work.
If you want to try an unproven treatment,
do these things first:
- Talk to people who have tried the treatment. Ask them
about everything that happened during and after the
treatmentboth good and bad.
- Ask the person who is giving the treatment what kind
of training they've had and how long they have been
doing the treatment.
- Ask how much it will cost. Health insurance may not
pay for unproven treatments.
- Tell your doctor you're thinking about trying a new
The best way to try an unproven treatment
is to get into a clinical trial. A clinical trial is an
experiment to see if the treatment is safe and really works.
Clinical trials must follow exact steps to protect patients.
Your doctor may be able to help you find a clinical trial.
Before you try an unproven treatment talk
to someone who knows about it.
Watch Out for Phony Treatments
How can you tell if a medicine or other treatment
is phony? One way to tell is to look for certain tricks.
People who sell phony health products often use tricks to
gain your trust and get your money.
Watch out for ads that talk about:
- secret formulas (Real scientists share what they know.)
- amazing breakthroughs or miracle cures (Real breakthroughs
don't happen very often. When they do, real scientists
don't call them amazing or miracles.)
- easy weight loss (For most people, the only way to
lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.)
- quick, painless, or guaranteed cures.
- Phony medicines or other treatments cheat you out
of your money. Some phony treatments might not hurt
you but they won't make you any better either.
- Some phony treatments might make you even sicker.
The best advice: If it sounds too good to be true,
it probably isn't true.
- Ask your doctor or the pharmacist at the drug store
about treatments that may help you.
Do you have questions about any kind of medical
treatment? FDA may have an office near you. Look for
their number in the blue pages of the phone book.
You can also contact FDA through
its toll-free number, 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).
Do you have questions about experimental
medicine or clinical trials? Ask your doctor or write
a letter to:
National Institutes of Health
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
P. O. Box 8218
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8218
Or call toll-free 1-888-644-6226