Vanguard (Lagos)

15 January 2013

Nigeria: How to Spot Fake Cure Claims

The National Agency For Food, Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) has dissociated itself from the claim of an alleged HIV/AIDS cure purportedly ... ( Resource: NAFDAC Dismisses HIV/AIDS Cure Claims

Who makes the claims?

Try to find some information about the claimants. What are their credentials? Where did they get their qualifications?

What are the claims?

Look at how the product is presented. Is it verified? By who, when and where? Use of sensational terms such as "miracle breakthrough" are suspect. A real scientist would be extremely wary of making wild claims. Watch for evidence of poor scientific understanding; for example, no expert would refer to HIV as "the HIV virus".

What's in the cure?

Many inventors won't reveal what goes into their "cures". Ask why. Keep in mind that words like "natural" and "herbal" are no guarantee of safety or efficacy.

What evidence do they offer?

To gain the approval of medical authorities, any new treatment must undergo very extensive testing. A proper trial involves a large group of volunteers divided randomly into two sets. Virtually all promoters of "AIDS cures" do not provide data from large-scale, randomised human trials.

Instead they rely on anecdotes, personal testimonies, laboratory experiments or small-scale trials with no placebo comparison. This type of evidence is always unreliable. Personal testimonies are notoriously untrustworthy. There is no way of knowing whether the people in question ever existed, let alone whether they were helped by the therapy.

Proving that HIV has been eradicated isn't easy. Changes in symptoms or weight gain are not sufficient, and neither is a viral load test.

Even if the test can't detect HIV in the bloodstream (perhaps due to antiretroviral therapy), this doesn't mean the virus has been cleared from all parts of the body.

Beware of conspiracy theorists

Many sellers of fake medicines fall back on conspiracy theories to explain why their products haven't undergone proper testing. They say that government agencies and the medical profession seek to suppress alternative treatments to safeguard the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. This kind of allegation is a sure sign of a charlatan. In reality, leading scientists investigate all kinds of therapies that can't be patented.

Do some research

Any important medical breakthrough will be reported in peer-reviewed journals such as Nature, Science or The Lancet. The mainstream media will pick up the story and leading experts will express their opinions.

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