When I was a young medical reporter for The Newark Star-Ledger, NJ, I thought I had it every time I wrote about an ailment. Now that I am an elderly medical writer, I probably do.
Being a hypochondriac – overly concerned about one’s health— is a challenge for the specialty I chose.
I receive more than 300 emails a day about beauty and health miracle cures. The copywriters who author the emails are unsung geniuses. They have to attract my attention without drawing the interest of regulators. Who are those who try to make the producers of cosmetics and food additives tell the truth?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has principal federal authority over cosmetic and OTC drug advertising. The FDA has chief control over their labeling. The FTC investigates ads that it has reason to believe are deceptive or misleading. The advertisement must contain a claim, practice, or omission likely to mislead consumers. However, for the FTC to act against a deceptive advertisement, three elements must be present:
- The advertisement must contain a claim, practice, or omission likely to mislead consumers
- Consumers must be interpreting the ad’s message reasonably under the circumstances
- The representation must be material—that is, it must be likely to affect a consumer’s conduct or decision concerning the product, particularly their decision to purchase it
To take a company to court is very expensive, so false claims usually result in just a warning letter. If the email says the product will change your appearance, it is a cosmetic. If it says it will change your body, then it is a drug.
Some hyped products add in small type “Not evaluated by the FDA” or “Consult your doctor before making any changes .”
Emails tell you what you already know: For example, two recent ones: “Age can affect every part of your body, especially your heart.” and “aging is not for the faint of heart.”
Some emails are pretty interesting, like a recent one who told me how to make my child a creative genius. “Paint a green flying octopus, and let your child interpret it …Let your child be bored or fail.”
Sometimes I do get leads on stories; for example, I noticed the same woman’s before- and- after pictures praising various celebrities, anti-aging creams online, on TV, and in emails. Her name is Lacey Johnson, age 43 years. I even found her on Dr. Oz’s site. He asks, “If you want to look Like Christie Brinkley Does?” In the presentation, Dr. Oz is facing the beautiful model with a jar in hand. The before-and-after picture on the site, however, shows Lacey Johnson and her comment, which I also found in various celebrity anti-aging creams advertisements:
“Christie Brinkley’s Infinite Restore Moisturizer is the absolute best wrinkle removing product I’ve ever used. I thought my days of looking young were long gone. I can’t thank you enough for this!”Lacey Johnson
Since Lacey liked so many different celebrity anti-aging creams, I thought I would try and find her. Lacey’s hometowns were varied., I finally found a response in Switzerland which referred me to Germany. A woman with that name was working as an executive for a large private label company. If you use a private labeler, you can pick out the container and put your name on it. You can fill the bottle or jar with your concoction or select ingredients from the labeler’s stock. I don’t know if I found the cosmetic-linked Lacey Johnson, but yesterday, I received a before—and– after picture of a very successful dieter. Her name was Lacey Johnson. My daughter sent me two emails for my collection:
“Now that I have my head together, my body is falling apart,”
“It is easier to get older than wiser.”
If you know who wrote them, please send me their names by email.
PS. I am a serious medical writer but, hope I made you smile.