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Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc., and two affiliated hospitals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they made false and unsubstantiated claims in advertising and promoting their cancer treatments. The FTC alleged that the respondents could not back up claims, among others, that through certain specific procedures such as "whole body hyperthermia" and "brachytherapy," they were able to successfully treat certain forms of cancer unresponsive to conventional treatment. The respondents also allegedly failed to substantiate a claim that their five-year survivorship rate had ranked among the highest recorded for cancer patients.
The proposed settlement would require the respondents to substantiate future claims regarding the success or efficacy of their cancer treatments and ensure that testimonials they use do not misrepresent the typical experience of their patients.
The FTC's complaint names Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc., based in Arlington, Illinois; Midwestern Regional Medical Center Inc., based in Zion, Illinois; and Memorial Medical Center and Cancer Institute, Inc., based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The respondents advertise and dispense cancer treatments and related health care services on an inpatient and outpatient basis, under the trade name "Cancer Treatment Centers of America" (CTCA).
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the allegations, CTCA's promotional brochure, which was disseminated nationwide, represented that the respondents had statistical evidence to demonstrate that their survivorship rate for cancer patients was among the highest recorded and that whole body hyperthermia could successfully treat certain forms of cancer that were previously unresponsive to conventional types of cancer treatment. In addition, the FTC alleged that the brochure had falsely claimed that whole body hyperthermia had been approved for the treatment of cancer by an independent agency or medical organization. According to the complaint, however, the respondents did not have adequate evidence to back up any of these claims. These claims do not appear in the brochure that CTCA currently provides to consumers.
The complaint also alleges that, through a print advertisement, respondents represented that, through a procedure identified as brachytheraphy, respondents were able to improve the chances of survival for many lung cancer patients. This representation was also not substantiated adequately, according to the complaint.
Finally, according to the FTC, the respondents represented, without a reasonable basis, that consumer testimonials featured in their ads reflected the typical experience of patients who had undergone treatment at the respondents' treatment centers.
The proposed settlement of these charges, announced today for public comment, would require the respondents to have competent and reliable evidence -- scientific in certain appropriate instances -- to support any representation:
In addition, the order would prohibit the respondents from representing that an endorsement is the typical or ordinary experience of consumers of CTCA's services unless they can substantiate that claim with scientific evidence. The proposed settlement would allow the respondents to use a truthful, non- typical testimonial, if they clearly and prominently disclosed, in close proximity to the testimonial, the generally expected results or a cautionary note that others should not expect similar results.
The allegations contained in the consent agreement only address problems raised by the accuracy of certain advertising claims that respondents made. No inference should be drawn about the quality of care provided by respondents at their hospitals.
Finally, the proposed order contains various reporting requirements that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondents' compliance.
The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent agree- ment for public comment was 5-0. It will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the agreement to assist the public in commenting, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's Web site.
(FTC File No. 922 3308) (cancer)
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This article was posted on February 26, 2000.