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MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health special adviser for noncommunicable diseases, and Manila Doctors Hospital internist-cardiologist Dr. Anthony Leachon on Friday, August 18 filed an identity theft case against herbal and organic products that promote ads and content using fake endorsements from popular public figures such as himself.
According to Leachon’s press statement, the complaint pertains to the “unscrupulous exploitation” of his identity for the endorsement of “unverified” health products – Dianorm, Jointlab, Glufarelin, and Grandsure Gold – through deceptive online promotions.
“The said website also makes use of my image and identity, and makes unauthorized alterations to existing publicity materials I have. It also gives the impression that I endorse the said product and the science behind it, which is thoroughly untrue,” Leachon said in his complaint affidavit.
In his official complaint, Leachon highlighted the instances where the products misused his image and standing:
- Unidentified parties capitalized on his prominence by endorsing questionable products with fictitious curative claims.
- Unauthorized websites falsely attributed scientifically inaccurate declarations to Dr. Leachon, including the false endorsement of products as diabetes cures.
- Dr. Leachon’s photograph and name were harnessed without consent on various websites, creating a misleading illusion of his endorsement.
- False assertions and misattributed statements were used to manipulate the public into believing that Dr. Leachon advocates for these unverified health products.
On June 26, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, through Senate Resolution No. 666, called for a Senate probe on the proliferation online of celebrity endorsement scams. The senate resolution said Leachon denied that he is endorsing “any product or supplement.”
“The circulation and proliferation of fraudulent online advertisements are clear and blatant violations of the Consumer Act, which penalizes the dissemination of deceptive and misleading sales promotion practices,” Estrada pointed out in the resolution.
Aside from Leachon, Rappler has also fact-checked Facebook pages endorsing Glufarelin while using fake endorsements from other health experts such as Department of Health (DOH) undersecretary Dr. Eric Tayag, cardiologist and online health guru Dr. Willie Ong, CNN Philippines’ Dr. Freddie Gomez, American celebrity doctor Dr. Mehmet Oz, American nutritional research Dr. Neal Barnard, the National Institute of Health, and the Philippine General Hospital in several of their ads.
FDA Center for Food Regulation and Research told Rappler in an email that the fast-paced nature of social media trends makes it “challenging to effectively track and regulate various transactions involving the advertising, promotion, offering for sale, and selling unregistered food products” on online platforms such as Facebook.
The FDA advises the public to “to exercise caution and discernment” when purchasing food products online, particularly through social media channels.
“Consumers should be aware of the risks associated with unregistered products and the potential harm they may pose to their health and well-being,” the FDA said. – Rappler.com