The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent joint letters to seven companies allegedly making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their products’ ability to treat COVID-19 coronavirus, federal officials said Monday.
The FTC said these are the first warning letters issued by the agencies alleging unapproved or unsupported claims that products can treat or prevent coronavirus.
The agencies said the products sold by these companies that claim to treat or prevent coronavirus include teas, essential oils and colloidal silver, which the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) says are tiny silver particles in a liquid that is promoted online as a dietary supplement.
The FDA said there are currently no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products available to treat or prevent the virus, according to a news release.
“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. “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 agencies said in their letters that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the companies violate the FTC Act.
“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 program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one. The FDA’s laws are designed to protect the public health by ensuring, among other things, that drugs are safe and effective for their intended uses,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said.
Hahn said in the news release that the FDA will continue to pursue companies that place the public health at risk and will hold bad actors accountable.
The FTC told the companies in the letters that if the false claims did not stop, it may seek a federal court injunction and an order to get those companies to refund money to customers.
The companies had 48 hours to let the FTC know about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns, according to the news release.
The agencies said in the news release that they will continue to monitor online marketplaces, social media and incoming complaints to ensure companies do not continue to market fake products under a different name or on another website.