The Penman Law of Health Scams states that the more ailments a remedy claims to be able to cure, the less likely it is to cure any of them.
So I have no doubt that Facebook plugs for a “miracle” cannabis extract are 100% scam.
These begin by using the names of celebrities without their consent – most recently I’ve seen posts using pictures of Esther Rantzen.
Clicking on her picture links to what purports to be an article in the American magazine People in which she promotes cannabidiol or CBD, sold in sweet form as Kara’s Orchards CBD Gummies.
The article claims that Esther has set up a company to sell the stuff, saying: “It can help thousands of people experience life pain-free and live much happier lives.”
It goes on to say that big pharmaceutical companies are threatening to sue her because her gummies are 90% cheaper.
And it quotes a series of her supposed celebrity customers, including Hugh Laurie gushing: “Esther Rantzen gave me a sample of Kara’s Orchards CBD Gummies and the product is a miracle worker.”
Judi Dench enthuses: “The advances Esther Rantzen has made in the CBD industry are remarkable. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t had the chance to try it out for myself.”
All of which is pure fiction.
This faked People magazine article is as fictional as similar Facebook posts using David Attenborough’s name and linking to a supposed piece in Time magazine about his CBD gummies line, which claim his happy customers include Holly Willoughby and Jeremy Clarkson.
JK Rowling’s name has also been exploited by CBD charlatans in the same way on Facebook.
Clicking on the link in the Esther Rantzen article leads to a site making astonishing claims for CBD, saying it can reverse ailments including cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, strokes, diabetes, schizophrenia “and much, much more”.
Online review sites are awash with complaints from people who say they’ve been overcharged and are struggling to get a refund.
“My husband suffers with arthritis badly in one shoulder. I thought I would get one bottle as they had an offer of £39.60 a bottle, and one free,” 75-year-old Heather Nunn told me.
“There was a time limit on the offer, which was 3 hours away, so I wasted no time putting in my order.
“Imagine my horror when they took £198 from my account for five bottles.”
Heather complained but was told that it was too late to cancel the order, she would have to wait until it arrived and then return the extra bottles.
“I feel so cross for falling for this awful marketing ploy,” she said.
“I know of many fellow victims, lots in my age group, who have been scammed by this. Facebook have been made aware but will not do anything because apparently the company haven’t breached ‘community standards’.”
The Kara’s Orchards website does not give any contact details. Order fulfilment is through a business called Prime Health Zone which gives a returns address in Basildon, Essex, and has not replied to my questions.
Esther Rantzen told me she was “absolutely shocked” by the scam.
She said: “This is really nasty because heaven knows we all dread the onset of a chronic disease and to offer people hope with this stuff is disgusting. I am not into Facebook, gummies, cannabis or ripping off vulnerable people in chronic pain. May the scammers boil in their own oil.”
Esther is not the only one who’s furious. Family doctor John Cormack was disgusted when he saw the medicinal claims being made for CBD gummies, describing them as “99.99% marketing and 0.01% fact”.
“If these products really do what they claim, shouldn’t the medical profession have caught on by now?” said the doctor from Chelmsford, Essex.
“Wouldn’t overworked NHS docs, struggling to fit a quart into a pint pot, be saying to their patients: ‘No need to tell me what’s wrong with you or have me examine you. At last we’ve found a panacea that is supported by scientific data. Just take these pills and you’re bound to make a miraculous recovery.”
He cited research showing that where the effects of CBD on specific ailments had been studied, only “weak or very weak” evidence of any benefit was found.
The exceptions were for some types of seizures and potentially anxiety-related and substance-abuse disorders.
“In these specific cases, in order to obtain benefit, you’d have to know what dose is recommended and find a product that conforms to your dosage requirements – not easy when you’re in the realms of poorly regulated or unregulated products,” he said.
“Another worry is patients might be so convinced of the benefits of CBD and have their faith in their prescribed medication so undermined by the content of these ads, that they may substitute the quack remedy for the real thing – with very serious consequences.”
And I’d add this: if CBD really does do a fraction of the things claimed, then why do shysters have to create fictional posts using fake celebrity endorsements to sell it?
When I initially alerted Facebook to the fraudulent post through its automatic reporting system, I received a message stating that it would not be removed.
“The post you reported was reviewed and it doesn’t breach our Community Standards,” was the platform’s shocking verdict.
It was only removed after I went to the Facebook press office and explained what was going on.
“We’re putting significant resources towards tackling this kind of activity,” insisted a spokesman.
“It’s important to us that content on Facebook is not used to promote deceptive behaviour, like using images of public figures to mislead people. Our systems get better when people report this kind of behaviour.”