dr John advises: buy!

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Von: Martin Ruecker

Selling dietary supplements, here in a stationary pharmacy, is big business. © Imago

A website uses fake product reviews to trick people into buying dietary supplements and prescription drugs without a prescription. Research into the dirty business of health.

After all, this much is certain: “Dr. John Apolzan really does exist. The nutritionist responds to emails and appears to be in excellent health.

Of course it wasn’t all that.

Apolzan is a professor at Louisiana State University in the United States. His portrait photo on the university website shows him with a big smile and laugh lines around his eyes. In this country, too, health-conscious people could use the friendly “Dr. John” as a prolific writer. He wrote, it seemed, article after article on the German-language website healthstatus.com and the partner website familyfoodandtravel.com.

The scientist evaluated nutritional supplements, detox patches and diet drops. He knew where to buy Viagra and high-dose painkillers on the Internet, patiently described the “stretching process” of a penis pump to prevent erection problems (“absolutely painless”). In the end, he was always able to recommend the products – and he had the link to the right online retailer. Apolzan was already at the top of the imprint of healthstatus.com until a few days ago, you can see the photo with the smile and the wrinkles on the eye.

All of this was nothing but a hoax. Like so much about the health portal, which in the end is always about one thing: the visitors should buy. Weight loss pills and anabolic steroids, prescription-only without a prescription. dr John recommends it, so: buy from the “partner” shop.

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The swindle begins with Apolzan’s product reviews: The real John Apolzan says he doesn’t even know that he wrote the articles. When asked, he replies quickly and clearly: He has no connection whatsoever with the operators of the websites, he is “not part of their team, as the website suggests”, and he has never carried out analyzes for them or written any articles. His name and picture had been “misused and used without his permission”.

“With us you will find detailed test reports, evaluated and researched by doctors and experts”: This is how healthstatus.com introduces itself to its visitors. A whole team of authors suggests concentrated competence, including experts from Germany. Like “Dr. Daniel Bangfahkiri”, allegedly a sports and preventive medicine doctor. A profile is linked to him on the LinkedIn social network, according to which he is said to be a doctor at the Altmühlfranken Clinic in Weißenburg, Franconia. There you go through the personnel files – the result, according to a spokeswoman: “We don’t know Daniel Bangfahkiri.” Tatjana Abel”, another “Team” member, also refers to a Linkedin profile on healthstatus.com, which claims that she is a doctor at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin. And there it also says: Such a doctor “never worked for us”.

Founded, according to the site, Health Status was listed in the “Team” by US marketing specialist Greg White, who is still the head of the company “HealthStatus, LLC” in Indianapolis. According to the imprint, however, another company is now responsible: London-based Finixio Ltd. The digital marketing specialists operate other German-language sites, which seem to revolve around one thing in particular: consumer-related content that makes it possible to integrate links to online shops that are likely to generate commissions. It’s about cannabis products and sports betting, psychics and cryptocurrencies – and health products.

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Nowhere are these as much in the foreground as on healthstatus.com, and apparently as search engine optimized as possible. A text about “keto drops” discusses in epic length whether the weight loss supplements appeared on the TV show “Lion’s Den”. Only to find that it wasn’t, but that doesn’t stop me from making a list of “Best Lion’s Den Keto Drops”. It seems as if the name of the program should only appear often enough to lure its followers to the portal via internet searches. And from there on to the sales pages of the dietary supplement manufacturers – or, if you want prescription drugs without a prescription, to one of two similarly designed online shops. There is no imprint…

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