Scam ads promote erectile remedy using fake Ben Carson endorsement

Posts claiming neurosurgeon Ben Carson endorsed medical treatments for erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer have spread across Facebook. This is false; the former US cabinet member made no such recommendation, a spokesperson confirmed.

"Let me tell you how you can maintain or fully restore your erection, even at 70 or 80 years old," Ben Carson, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary and 2016 presidential candidate, appears to say in a June 21, 2024 Facebook post.

Similarly, the headline on a web page that appears to be from NBC News declares: "Everyone is talking about it! Dr. Ben Carson awarded for excellence in healthcare after publishing a prostate treatment that will save millions of lives."

<span>Screenshot of a Facebook post taken July 5, 2024</span>
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken July 5, 2024

Similar to many other ads promoting unproven treatments on Facebook -- some using altered images of celebrity endorsements and fake articles -- the latest posts are false.

"This one is also fake and a scam. Dr Carson has NOT endorsed this product," a spokesperson for Carson's nonprofit American Cornerstone Institute told AFP in a July 3, 2024 email.

A keyword search uncovered no NBC reports that Carson promotes any such treatment, nor were they found mentioned by any other credible news organization. 

A reverse image search also revealed that the sign in the photo is doctored. The same photo appeared in the Wall Street Journal (archived here), credited to Christian Murdock of The Gazette in Colorado. It shows Carson speaking at a rally for Donald Trump in Colorado, on November 4, 2016.

<span>Screenshots of the two images side-by-side taken July 5, 2024</span><div><span>Natalie WADE</span></div>
Screenshots of the two images side-by-side taken July 5, 2024
Natalie WADE

The spoof website is not at the URL for NBC News and further examination found that clicking on any of the apparent hyperlinks on the page only redirects users to the advertisement for "prostate relief drops."

Hundreds of similar ads appear in Meta's Ad Library, several of which were taken down for not meeting advertising standards.

<span>Screenshot of the Meta Ad Library taken July 5, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the Meta Ad Library taken July 5, 2024

Before using an alternative medicine or treatment, patients are advised to speak to their doctor to make sure it is a safe and effective option. According to the Mayo Clinic: "Some products that claim to work for erectile dysfunction can be dangerous" (archived here).

The US Food and Drug Administration warns on its website that "health fraud scams run rampant on social media sites and closed messaging apps" (archived here).

Other false claims that Carson endorsed a "natural cure" for a variety of ailments were previously fact-checked by AFP.