FDA and FTC issue warning letters to companies selling fraudulent COVID-19 products

The US agencies have issued letters to seven companies, and removed online listings from others, whose products falsely claim to prevent or treat coronavirus.

the word 'coronavirus' surrounded by tablets and a face mask

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products that claim to treat or prevent the virus. At current there is no approved prevention or therapy for coronavirus.

According to the agencies, the products being sold are unapproved and pose a significant risk to patient health, as they may be unsafe for consumption and/or stop or delay patients getting necessary medical diagnoses and treatments.

The companies selling these products are violating federal law and may be subject to legal action, including but not limited to seizure or injunction, emphasise the organisations.

…the agencies will be continuing to monitor social media, online marketplaces and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to sell fraudulent COVID-19 products”

“The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance programme that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one,” explained FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen Hahn. “We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their health care providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable.”

“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”

The jointly issued warning letters were sent to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr LLC (operating as N-Ergetics), GuruNanda LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC and The Jim Bakker Show. The products cited in the letters are teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver. The latter has been the subject of previous FDA warnings, as the agency has found it to be ineffective and unsafe for treating any disease or condition.

The FDA and FTC are requesting that the companies respond to the letter within 48 hours, describing the specific steps they have taken to correct the violations. Further, the agencies stated they will be continuing to monitor social media, online marketplaces and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to sell fraudulent COVID-19 products under a different company name or on another website.

A cross-agency FDA task force has been established to closely monitor for more deceptive products related to COVID-19. The agencies state the task force has already reached out to major retailers to ask for their aid in monitoring online marketplaces for fraudulent products claiming to prevent or treat coronavirus. Three dozen listings have already been removed as a result and several retailers have agreed to monitor their marketplaces for phony products.