The Recipe for Making Stupid Videos

A promotional video for a prostate remedy could serve as a template for deceptive videos about dietary supplements. All marketing, no science, and plenty of red flags.

I see a lot of ads for natural remedies. The ones that really annoy me are the ones that promise to reveal a secret and force you to watch an interminable video presentation before they finally tell you what they are talking about. On the Vitalflow website they announce “Do this simple 60-second trick for breakfast, save your prostate.” You are asked to make sure the sound is on, and then told to click and play the video. I suffered through the entire video and will tell you what it says so you won’t need to waste your time.

The presenter wears a white coat and is shown standing in a pristine laboratory, so you are supposed to think he’s a reputable doctor or scientist, but he is not identified. He could be a lab tech or an actor, for all we know. He spouts a bunch of misinformation and emotional language designed to pull at our heartstrings and stifle critical thinking. The video starts with an alarming story about how the speaker found his 48-year-old brother collapsed in the bathroom in a pool of his own urine, a former SWAT team member who was now wrapped up in an adult diaper. He says a nurse pushed a 16-inch catheter down his brother’s pee hole to stop him dribbling those ten pathetic drops of pee on the white sheets. He describes how he was furious at himself for not realizing, furious at his brother’s wife for hiding the problem, and furious at the doctors who prescribed standard medical treatment, medicine which instead of shrinking his ballooning prostate had actually swollen it to 5X its normal size. Three specialists had brushed off his concerns without a second thought. He says 93% of men will have prostate issues [this is simply not true. Estimates of the incidence of benign prostatic hypertrophy by age 90 range from 8-60%]. Your prostate will swell and could pop at any moment [prostates don’t “pop”]! He says if you stick with this video you will learn more. The two prostate drugs that pharmaceutical companies want you to “guzzle down,” despite a Harvard study showing that the drugs cause total prostate failure [not true, and side effects are usually mild] and other deadly diseases [what study? What deadly diseases?]. He says there is a $1.63 a day miracle that put him on Big Pharma’s hit list. This is the 3rdtime he has uploaded this presentation and they [who exactly are “they”?] always take it down and try to hide his exposé on their shifty practices and criminal activity. He says the video has helped over 17,856 men, saving their lives and dignity. [Hearsay and speculation.] He presents a patient who thanked him; he was unable to sleep, getting up 16 times a night to pee, says he is now peeing like a horse, satisfying his wife like a stud, and sleeping like a baby through the night.

The guy in the white coat says his name is Sam Morgan and he is the most hated man in Big Pharma board meetings. (From other websites it appears he is an entrepreneur with no scientific or medical background who had to consult medical professionals to develop his product. And his own website reveals that Sam Morgan is a pen name used for marketing purposes and to hide his identity.) He says Big Pharma now has a cash price on the head of every able-bodied man. He quotes astronomical prices for pharmaceutical prostate drugs [a bit of fact-checking shows the drugs in question are actually very affordable]. He says patients risk bankruptcy. He claims his brother could make any woman weak in the knees with lust until his prostate started acting up. He describes a nurse having to insert a catheter to remove the few drops of urine stuck in his bladder. He says his brother was sick and not conscious most of the time because of the toxins [what toxins exactly?] that were spilling in his blood, causing him to hallucinate [I seriously doubt that]. When the doctors told him they couldn’t treat his brother until they knew if he was taking any prostate inhibitors, he says his brother wouldn’t say, so he searched his brother’s house, noticed a smell of urine in the garage, and when he opened the trunk of the car, he found soiled underwear that his brother hadn’t had time to throw out [Why throw them out? Why not just wash them?], as well as two partially used packages of Avodart and Proscar. He claims they were prescribed by doctors who were on Big Pharma’s payroll and willing to prescribe whatever brings them the biggest payout. His brother’s wife told him she had awakened one night and screamed in disgust as she realized he had peed himself and hadn’t even noticed. He says after his brother started taking the medication prescribed by the doctor, he was basically a eunuch. His “gems” were so painful he wouldn’t allow his wife to touch him. He was grumpy and didn’t see her as a woman. He was in so much pain he could barely sit on a chair. He tells us he couldn’t stand to see the doctors’ crimes go unpunished. He calls the doctors “greedy bastards”.

He says his product will put an end to all the problems men are told they will have to get used to, including impotence and balding. He quotes a testimonial from a patient who says his product saved him from bankruptcy and surgery. He claims the doctors told him there was nothing they could do to save his brother from kidney failure, coma, and death. The best scenario would leave him hooked up to a dialysis machine just to survive. [No, the best scenario would be to have surgery to cure the BPH.]

He says he has a tried and tested method that is risk free and takes less than 60 seconds a day. His research found that the underlying problem was an increase in an aggressive form of testosterone called DHT that caused an inflammatory reaction. He was so excited by his discoveries that his heart started beating out of his chest. After getting some ideas from a researcher friend, he took his brother out of “that hell hole of a hospital” and started treating him himself. He had to take out a second mortgage and sell his car to afford the first batch of ingredients. After two weeks of taking the blend, his brother’s symptoms started to improve.

He says the 34 ingredients he identified are extremely pure and bioavailable and have been proven effective ONLY in this formula. You have a 50-60 years’ buildup of DHT in your prostate that needs to be flushed out. [Yeah, sure!]

He offers an 8-step program (actually not “steps,” just a mixture of natural ingredients). Saw palmetto berries, graviola leaf, and a trio of Japanese mushrooms will flush out the DHT. In the next step, cat’s claw and tomato fruit powder will flush out the toxins that have been spilling into your blood for years. Pygeum africanum bark is another ingredient; I didn’t catch what it is supposed to do.

Stinging nettle root and red raspberry extract will micropenetrate your sex cells and not only restore your manhood but make it three times stronger. Natural green tea and broccoli leaf extracts will restore your urinary flow. Selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6 will ensure that no debilitating DHT will ramble through your body; they will destroy “any DHT or other bacteria they come across.” [“Other bacteria”??!!] Zinc, copper, and plant sterols defend you from DHT. A 15-herb proprietary herbal blend will “activate and boost your body’s hormonal balance”.

He says he was reluctant to share his discovery with the general public because Big Pharma’s rage spreads far and wide, and their lawyers are like rabid dogs. But he and his partners decided to invest everything they had to share their wonderful 8-step program and help men everywhere avoid suffering. It’s called VitalFlow. You could take the individual ingredients, but that wouldn’t work as well as this “scientifically proven formula” will. (By “scientifically proven”, I don’t think he means what the rest of us mean.) It is difficult for the general public to obtain, because supplies are always running out. But he will tell you how to get it now, recommending that you order several bottles. He says he may not be able to stay in business because he is facing several injunctions from pharmaceutical lawyers who hate what he’s doing and are furious that there’s a natural remedy.

Buying the individual ingredients would cost $147 a month, but VitalFlow costs only $69 per bottle. He says he’s not interested in making a profit (ha!). With a special discount, you can get it for $49 if you act now with free shipping which usually costs $9.99. The offer is only available TODAY through his website. (??? But apparently “today” is whatever day you happen to view the video!) Don’t wait! It works out to only $1.63 per day. It will be delivered in 5 business days in discrete packaging. He warns that if he runs out of supplies, it will take up to three months to produce another batch. [Why not have continuous production?] He offers a 60-day 100% money-back guarantee (but it may take several weeks to notice results). Finally, he uses scare tactics, describing disastrous consequences like bone-crushing exhaustion and inability to perform in your job if you don’t act on this information. The product has not been tested. No clinical trial results are mentioned.

Conclusion: All marketing, no science

The VitalFlow video could serve as a template for making deceptive videos about dietary supplements. It checks all the red flags: the white coat, the over-the-top emotional language, the gross exaggerations, the conspiracy theories, the testimonials, treating the underlying cause rather than just the symptoms, doctors only interested in profit, the lack of clinical studies, the inaccuracies, the obviously false statements, the mis-spellings, the “buy now” pressure, the “supplies won’t last,” and much more. Regular readers of the Science-Based Medicine blog will have no trouble spotting these and more flaws. I’m not saying the product doesn’t work; but of course we simply have no way to assess its efficacy or safety until it has been tested.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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