An unscientific, unproven cancer treatment was advertised on the department of health's website, to the horror of the department, according to Times Select. But it turned out that the man who placed the advert didn't advertise there specifically, and the ad was the result of Google's advertising model.
The advert reportedly promised "alternative cancer chemo", saying "cancer is no longer a dead (sic) sentence", and reportedly linked out to CancerSA.net which promises alternative treatments, run by general practitioner Eugene Pretorius.
The website promises: "Live nearly a normal life while undergoing chemotherapy treatment" and says its treatment lets patients avoid chemo's side effects.
The treatment offered – Insulin-potentiation therapy – is reportedly described by the Quackwatch website as one of "several unproven, dangerous and/or alternative treatments that are promoted by a group of medical practitioners without trustworthy evidence that it works".
Health spokesperson Hope Papo told Times Select he was "horrified" by the news that the ad had appeared on the department's website and said there would be an investigation.
But Pretorius reportedly said he did not advertise there on purpose, and said he used Google advertising.
It turned out that he had used Google Ads, which allows users to bid on keywords, such as "department of health", improving the chances of their products seen when other people google those words.
A press released from the Cancer Association of SA warns against IPT.
It says: "The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) is warning cancer patients about false promises that have been made about so-called Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT). During the past few weeks, there has been a campaign, especially using the radio, to present IPT as a breakthrough in cancer therapy. Some desperate cancer patients have grasped at this treatment, especially when conventional treatment has failed to arrest the growth of their cancers."
Dr Carl Albrecht, a Cansa research advocate, is quoted as saying IPT was developed in Mexico in the 1930s and since then, "there has not been a single published report in a peer-reviewed journal of a clinical trial showing any tumour regression or complete response".