MADISON, CONN. October 23, 2018 – A yearlong investigation by ad watchdog truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) into the marketing of the top 50 cancer centers around the country that spent the most on advertising has revealed that the vast majority — 90 percent — are deceptively promoting atypical patient testimonials.
TINA.org catalogued more than 700 testimonials featuring cancer patients with a less than 50 percent five-year survival rate that have been deceptively used in marketing materials to advance the narrative, either explicitly or implicitly, that treatment at a particular cancer center will provide patients with a therapeutic advantage, allowing them to beat the odds and live beyond five years. In each of the 700-plus instances, the cancer center failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose what is typical for such patients.
At the top of the ad spenders list is Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), which accounted for nearly half of the more than $140 million spent by the top 50 on advertising in 2017. No stranger to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CTCA entered into a consent order with the agency in 1996 that prohibited it from, among other things, using testimonials that misrepresent the typical experience of its patients. After documenting more than 130 atypical CTCA testimonials that were in circulation in 2018, TINA.org has filed a complaint with the FTC against CTCA and put 42 other cancer centers nationwide on notice that they are engaging in deceptive marketing practices. The other centers include prominent U.S. hospitals such as MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dana Farber and Moffitt Cancer Center.
While any cancer center can find a patient who has beaten the odds, using that atypical experience to play on the hopes and fears of patients who are fighting for their lives has real consequences. Studies show that consumers in general put more trust in the motives of medical institutions than they do other types of marketers making this type of deceptive marketing all the more harmful to consumers.
“Cancer patients and their families facing devastating odds of survival have a right to know the truth. To sway this uniquely susceptible population’s decisions as to where they should seek treatment by exploiting false hope is simply not acceptable,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten.
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of cancer care centers, see: https://truthinadvertising.org/cancer-care-the-deceptive-marketing-of-hope/
See an infographic on the results of this investigation here: https://truthinadvertising.org/cancer-infographic/
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