Filipino doctors did not promote unregistered milk product that 'cures diabetes'

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Facebook pages designed to appear as if they are from the state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH) have shared fabricated news graphics alongside false claims that Filipino doctors discovered a milk product that can "cure diabetes". But endocrinologists say there is currently no cure for the disease, and the Philippine food and drug agency earlier warned against consuming the product.

"Endocrinologist Dr Augusto D. Litonjua (former director of National Center for Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Research and Development in the Philippines) talked about the most effective cure for diabetes today. Here are the details," reads the Tagalog-language caption of the fabricated graphic shared on Facebook here on April 25, 2023.

It bears the logo of Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN News and was published on a page called "PGH-Philippine General Hospital News". It features Dr Litonjua purportedly saying he "discovered a new way" to control the disease.

The post -- shared more than 530 times -- links to a website promoting a milk product called Glufarelin.

AFP previously debunked the claim the unregistered milk supplement could treat diabetes here.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 16, 2023

A similar graphic supposedly quoting Dr Maricar Limpin, who is described as an endocrinologist, was shared on a Facebook page called "Philippine General Hospital News" here on May 4.

She was quoted as saying: "Listen to me: tablets and injections cannot cure diabetes. My colleagues and I have discovered a very effective method."

The post also included a link to a page advertising Glufarelin.

Screenshot of the false post taken on May 16, 2023

Similar false posts were published on Facebook here and here.

Comments on the posts suggested many users believed the doctors had promoted the unregistered product.

"Doc, where can I buy this?" wrote one user.

"I want to be cured, I hope my order comes," asked another.

Fabricated endorsements

The Philippine College of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PCEDM) -- which was founded by Dr Litonjua -- called the posts "fake" in a statement published on Facebook on April 28 (archived links here and here).

The Tagalog-language statement says: "There is not enough evidence to prove the benefits of products being sold on social media.

"Until now, there is no drug that can cure diabetes. Only a combination of a healthy diet and exercise and medicines can help lower one's blood sugar levels."

Dr Limpin separately said in a Facebook post on May 5 that she had not endorsed the product (archived link).

"Do not believe because this did not come from me," her post said, adding she is not an endocrinologist as the posts claim but a doctor who practises internal medicine.

"I am not going to speak of anything NOT based on scientific evidence."

No 'milk cure' for diabetes

Endocrinologist Dr Marjorie Ramos of the PCEDM told AFP there are no milk products that can cure diabetes (archived link).

"Proper management strategies can control diabetes and modify the course and outcome," she said on May 18.

Dr John Paul Bagos, an endocrinologist at the Novaliches General Hospital, separately told AFP that diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed by making lifestyle changes and taking oral hypoglycemic agents, such as metformin and sulfonylureas, and injectables, such as insulin (archived link).

"It is best to consult an endocrinologist to seek advice regarding diabetes," he said on May 17.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously issued an advisory warning against purchasing or consuming Glufarelin (archived link).

The advisory, issued on July 11, 2022, said the unregistered product had not undergone the FDA's approval process, so the agency "cannot assure its quality and safety".

As of May 17, 2023, Glufarelin was still not listed in FDA's database of registered products (archived link).

Imposter graphics and pages

Arlene Burgos, head of engagement and partnerships at ABS-CBN, told AFP the news graphics used to promote the product were not made by the broadcaster.

"We categorically deny releasing the materials supposedly quoted by ABS-CBN in a quote card," she said on May 11.

ABS-CBN's logo has previously been applied to other fabricated quote cards, which the broadcaster highlighted here and here (archived links here and here).

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) has also warned about imposter Facebook pages and reminded the public to refer to its official website and Facebook page (archived links here, here and here).

The state-run hospital issued a separate statement on April 20 saying the page promoting Glufarelin is not a legitimate page and the hospital does not endorse any product (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of one of the imposter accounts (left) and the PGH's official page (right):

Screenshot comparison of one of the imposter accounts (left) and the hospital's official page (right)

More than 130,000 users follow the genuine page, which is called "University of the Philippines-Philippines General Hospital". The page also has a link to the hospital's official website and includes the hospital's phone number.

AFP previously debunked posts that contain fabricated endorsements from doctors here, here, here, here and here.