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Some remedies contained substances such as opium, alcohol and honey, which would have given symptomatic relief but had no curative properties.Some would have addictive qualities to entice the buyer to return.For example, Beecham's Pills, which according to the British Medical Association contained in 1909 only aloes, ginger and soap, but claimed to cure 31 medical conditions, were sold until 1998.
Each brand retained the same basic appearance for more than 100 years.
To be both quackery and fraud, the quack must know they are misrepresenting the benefits and risks of the medical services offered (instead of, for example, promoting an ineffective product they honestly believe is effective).
In addition to the ethical problems of promising benefits that can not reasonably be expected to occur, quackery also includes the risk that patients may choose to forego treatments that are more likely to help them, in favor of ineffective treatments given by the "quack".
A quack is a "fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill" or "a person who pretends, professionally or publicly, to have skill, knowledge, qualification or credentials he or she does not possess; a charlatan or snake oil salesman".
Common elements of general quackery include questionable diagnoses using questionable diagnostic tests, as well as untested or refuted treatments, especially for serious diseases such as cancer.