FDA Orders Dr. Mercola to Stop Making Unsupported Claims for Thermography
On Dr. Joseph Mercola’s popular website, women are warned against getting mammograms to screen for breast cancer.
Instead, the Chicago-area physician touts thermograms — digital images of skin surface temperatures — as an early detection tool for a wide range of conditions from cancer to back pain, from lupus to arthritis.
Now Mercola is in a fight with federal regulators about his claims for the Med2000, a thermographic camera that he calls “revolutionary,” though science has yet to back his claims.
…The letter is the third since 2005 for Mercola, whose online empire draws traffic that places it in the top 400 websites nationally. He offers thermography through his Natural Health Center in Hoffman Estates.
Mercola said he stands by his right to make the claims about thermograms on his site. “We will fight the FDA on this issue if they decide to take this further,” he wrote in an email to the Tribune.
…Breast thermograms cost around $200, with full-body scans costing about $350. Many insurance providers rarely if ever cover thermography, considering it to be experimental and unproven.
The American Cancer Society states that “no study has ever shown that it is an effective screening tool for finding breast cancer early. It should not be used as a substitute for mammograms.”
…Mercola, who has twice been featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” has built a massive online edifice offering readers thousands of pages of health information that include speculative and unproven ideas. The website has promoted the unsupported idea that cancer is caused by a fungus, for example.
I’ve been randomly debunking Mercola’s stuff for years on the BBR forum. While he provides some valid advice on health and nutrition, he also selectively quotes and cherry-picks evidence in support of some pretty wacky conclusions. At the moment, for example, I’m looking into various wild-ass claims about the health effects of microwave ovens… and guess whose article I’m using as a guide to all the whackaloonery on the topic?
Yep. Right in one. Suffice it to say that the FAIL is strong in this one.
As such, I admire the patience and fortitude of cancer surgeon/researcher/med blogger Orac, who’s put a lot of time and effort into dissecting Dr. Mercola’s more paranoid pronouncements (this one’s a doozie). He’s done the leg work on thermography too… unlike some of Mercola’s other infatuations (like homeopathy), it’s not total BS, but it hasn’t been sufficiently validated. As Orac notes:
The sad thing is that thermography is a technology that has some degree of scientific plausibility. It just hasn’t been validated as a diagnostic modality to detect breast cancer yet. The studies from 30 years ago showed it to be markedly inferior to mammography for this purpose, the claims of naturopaths, chiropractors, and various other quacks notwithstanding. While it’s true that advances in technology and computing power might have brought thermography to a point where it might be a useful adjunct to current imaging techniques, large randomized clinical trials have not been done to define its sensitivity and specificity and determine its utility when added to routine mammographic screening. Until that is done, thermography can’t be considered to be a scientifically acceptable screening modality.
Makes perfect sense to me.
I don’t doubt that Mercola will play the victim card here (it’s a profitable schtick), but my sympathies are with the FDA on this one.