FDA warns on oxygen chamber scams

August 23, 2013 by Sony Salzman

The FDA warns consumers about clinics offering oxygen chamber treatments for a wide range of non-approved ailments, from Alzheimer’s disease to sports injuries.

Many oxygen chamber treatments are a scam, FDA says

The FDA warned consumers of a classic snake oil scam after hearing dozens of complaints about false advertising of oxygen chambers as a cure for cancer, autism, diabetes and other serious diseases.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy devices, commonly known as oxygen chambers, are being offered as a cure-all by many treatment centers and websites, the FDA said in a warning to consumers. In the last 3 years, federal regulators heard 27 complaints from patients and doctors that medical centers are offering an oxygen chamber 'treatment' for diseases not indicated on the medical device's labeling.

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Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been cleared by the FDA for limited and very specific medical uses, such as decompression sickness suffered by scuba divers or carbon monoxide poisoning. The chamber, which pumps 3 times the normal amount of oxygen into the breathing environment, is only cleared to treat 13 specific ailments based on scientific validation and testing.

"Patients may incorrectly believe that these devices have been proven safe and effective for uses not cleared by FDA, which may cause them to delay or forgo proven medical therapies," Nayan Patel, biomedical engineer in FDA's anesthesiology devices branch, said in the consumer warning.

In addition to cancer, autism and diabetes, the device is falsely advertised to treat a swath of diseases such as AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, depression, stroke and heart disease, spine and brain injuries, cerebral palsy and common migraines.