Don’t believe everything you hear: you may have noticed the recent biotechnology hype in medical news lately, with biotech companies promising dramatic health improvement via biotech ‘cures’. Experts say we shouldn’t get enthusiastic about such claims that fast: most of them are unfortunately dramatic overstatements or even purely fictional promises. With an air of more scientific backing than the previous health hypes, the recent promises of biotech companies to dramatically alter health vulnerabilities through epigenetics are, unfortunately, just that: yet another unfounded hype, for the most part.
To begin with, miracle cures should always feel suspicious, no matter the technique claimed as the source for the instant results promised. Never in the history of medical development have miracle cures been anything but a dupe, and the aggressive advertising recently displayed by some biotech companies is just another example of it. Let’s take a look at a few examples of such advertisements which turn out to be misleading, to say the least.
A few examples of false claims by biotech companies
You may have seen the recent TV ad and cover story running under the slogan ‘unlocking genetics to improve health’. Next, the viewer is made familiar with the story of one test subject who struggled with the effects of a rare genetic condition which made life difficult, and who then benefitted from a targeted drug which neutralized the condition up to the point of making it invisible to the affected person. Up to this point, it looked that humanity’s efforts of developing science and finally paying off and biotechnology may be the answer to all our medical prayers. The only downside or caveat to the story was included as an easy to miss disclaimer, somewhere towards the end of the story.
Why is the story a false claim and an example of dangerous advertising? Well, for starters, you cannot verify if it’s a false claim or not until looking at data from independent experts and the like (we will detail this below), but you should be able to tell that the ad is dangerous right away. Any claims by biotech companies to miraculously cure anything should be taken with a grain of salt to say the least. Furthermore, these advertised drugs are obviously new and experimental, leaving aside their effectiveness which is yet to be proven. This means that insurance companies are surely not covering any biotechnology drugs, and they are probably expensive and need to be paid entirely by the user. This, coupled with the claim of curing previously incurable diseases or making their symptoms fade, should be a major red flag whenever you see a commercial along these lines.
How to properly evaluate biotechnology claims
If you notice a recent piece of news or an ad announcing the triumph of an epigenetics discovery in a drug that can greatly improve human life, be weary. There’s no need to dismiss the claims of biotech companies from the start, since some of them may actually be on to something, but you definitely need to check their claims before wasting any of your money on the miracle drugs they’re trying to sell.
This is what you need to do:
- First of all, look for more data about how the study was made, how the results were verified, whether it was reviewed by outside experts or not. A study lacking such details is dubious from the start.
- Second of all, even if the above mentioned details (confirmation by external experts) seem in order, you need to look at the number of the study participants. A study that only measured self-reported results from a small number of users (below 100) could very well be nothing more than Placebo.
- Third of all, any claims from biotech companies advertising their products for helping various diseases should be supported by a printed study. All the results, even if they benefit from the confirmation and support by external experts, should be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal in order to truly ‘exist’ and for references to the study to be possible.
- Last, but not least, if you’re still in doubt, you can also ask for the opinion of your physician, after also sharing your concerns. But if the answer you obtain seems to enthusiastic, make sure you get a second opinion as well, since some doctors can unfortunately benefit from a sales percentage from the biotech companies, actively encouraging them to promote their products on a ‘well, it surely can’t hurt’ approach.