FDA Warns 7 Companies Selling Products That Claim to Protect Against Coronavirus

Paula Liu
By Paula Liu
March 9, 2020COVID-19

Two U.S. federal agencies issued several warning letters to seven companies fraudulently claiming to sell products that would prevent, treat, or cure the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent letters on March 6 to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and the Jim Bakker Show over violations of federal law. The products cited in the joint letter were unapproved drugs and included teas, essential oils, tinctures, and colloidal silver.

“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus. What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a release on Monday. “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 companies will have 48 hours to respond to the FDA and FTC outlining the steps that they have taken to “correct the violations.” Any supporting documents or explanation should be included in the response, according to the individual letters sent to each company. The agencies also warned the companies that failure to comply may result in “legal action, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction.”

In addition to coronavirus scams, the FDA said it is particularly concerned that people who buy fraudulent products will forgo medical treatment for the virus, which could lead to health problems or seriously threaten the persons life.

“We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn warned. “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.”

COVID-19, the disease the new coronavirus causes, emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and spread to over 100 countries around the world. There is no vaccine or proven treatment, though many patients have gotten better through rest and medical care.

As of Sunday evening, 34 states and the U.S. capitol have reported more than 500 cases to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. The agency has also received reports of 19 deaths, with all but one taking place in Washington state.

Florida recently announced two deaths. It wasn’t clear why those weren’t included in the total.

Experts recommend frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, regularly cleaning surfaces and objects, and not touching one’s face with unwashed hands.

People who become ill should stay at home and contact their doctor or health authorities. Depending on their symptoms, they may be asked to stay isolated at home. If symptoms are severe or in some other cases, patients will be quarantined at hospitals.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report

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