Melanoma App Vendor Barred from Making Deceptive Health Claims

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Under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, a melanoma-detection app vendor has been barred from making further deceptive health claims about his products available for sale online in the Apple and Google app stores.

According to FTC, Avrom Lasarow is now “prohibited from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any product or service, including that a device detects or diagnoses melanoma.” Earlier this year, FTC charged U.K.-based Lasarow and his company—L Health Ltd.—with false advertising regarding the Mole Detective family of apps and their ability to detect melanoma or the risk of melanoma.

Also See: FTC Takes Marketers of Melanoma Apps to Task for Unsupported Claims

As part of the settlement, a $58,623.42 judgment was made against Lasarow which has been suspended based on his inability to pay the fine. However, FTC states that if he is later found to have misrepresented his finances, the full amount will become due immediately.

The FTC’s February 2015 complaint alleged that the Mole Detective apps instructed users to photograph a mole with a smartphone camera and that the apps could determine the mole’s melanoma risk, even assessing such risk in early stages.

“We haven’t found any scientific evidence that Mole Detective can accurately assess melanoma risk,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a written statement. “If you’re concerned that a mole may be cancerous, please see a health professional.”

A 2013 study in JAMA Dermatology found that several popular smartphone apps designed to evaluate photographs of skin lesions and provide feedback to non-clinician users about the likelihood of malignancy were not accurate. The study concluded the performance of these apps in assessing melanoma risk to be “highly variable” with three of four apps incorrectly classifying 30 percent or more of melanomas as “unconcerning.”

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