The Food and Drug Administration warned eight companies on Thursday to stop marketing miracle cures that claim to treat everything from autism to Parkinson's disease by flushing toxic metals from the body.
Regulators said the products, sold over the Internet, can cause dehydration, kidney failure and death. Known as chelation therapies, the products have been used for decades, although medical societies and government experts say there is no evidence they cure diseases.
The only FDA-approved chelation therapies are used to treat lead and mercury poisoning.
"These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options," said FDA's Deborah Autor, director of compliance. "The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief."
The FDA said it has seen an uptick in the number of chelation products sold over the Internet. The companies cited by the agency include World Health Products of Draper, Utah, Cardio Renew of Apple Valley, Minn., and Hormonal Health of San Bernardino, Calif.
The warning letters call on each company to immediately stop marketing and selling their products or face legal action.
Their products come in a variety of forms, including sprays, capsules and drops.
FDA officials said at least one death _ involving a child with autism _ has been reported with a chelation product. The injectable treatment linked to the death was not among the products targeted by Thursday's action. The agency noted that side effects of such unproven remedies often are not reported.