The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is aggressively reviewing company websites and social media sites such as Facebook to determine if unsubstantiated claims are being made about the ability of products and therapies to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. If the FTC finds claims that not substantiated by reliable scientific evidence, they send formal warning letters to the companies and individuals that run the websites and accounts.
Since there are no current proven treatments or cures for the virus, essentially every claim about prevention, treatments, and curses is unsubstantiated and thus violates the FTC Act. The FTC is targeting manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and marketing companies. The targeted products include drugs, dietary supplements, and other products.
Sample warning letters – IV Therapy and Vitamin C Therapy
Many of the recent FTC warning letters that were sent in late April and early May 2020 were sent to companies claiming that intravenous (IV) therapies and vitamin C therapies could prevent, treat, or cure the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). These letters all emphasize that since there are no studies showing that any treatments or cures effectively manage COVID-19, any claim asserting that there are treatments and therapies is unsubstantiated and thus violates the FTC Act.
The letters give the respondents 48 hours to remove the claims, to investigate whether there are other illegal claims, and to keep the FTC informed of the steps the respondent is taking to come into FTC compliance. Experienced FTC healthcare lawyers advise clients on the FTC compliance requirements and how to respond to FTC warning letters.
A few examples of FTC warning letters involving IV therapy and vitamin C therapy follow:
This San Diego, California company was notified on May 1, 2020 that the FTC, after a review of the company website and Facebook page, determined they were in violation of the FTC Act because their advertising falsely claimed that IV therapy could prevent or treat the novel coronavirus. A few of the claims that violated the FTC Act include:
- The company webpage titled “How Can IV Therapy Help With The Coronavirus?” falsely asserts,
- “You may find the relationship between IV therapy and the coronavirus surprising, but this powerful therapy has been used to boost the immune system for quite some time…. With the current spread of coronavirus COVID-19 becoming an increasing concern amongst our patients, we decided to share the benefits of IV therapy and break down how this treatment can help you stay healthy and/or recover faster from an array of illnesses.”
- “At this point, you may be asking yourself, ‘how can IV therapy help with viruses we know so little about?’ The answer lies in what we do know about the body’s immune system. Everything from sleep and exercise to hydration and diet affect our immune system function. If you are falling behind in even one of these areas, your immune system may not be able to do its job. In turn, you are more likely to become sick if you do come in contact with a virus….While IV therapy cannot prevent you from coming in contact with COVID19, it can help strengthen your immune system’s ability to fight it off.”
- A Facebook post titled, “IV Therapy can help strengthen your immune, which can be vital in helping to prevent the possibility of coming into contact with viruses like Covid-19.” By claiming:
- “While IV therapy cannot prevent you from coming in contact with COVID-19, it can help strengthen your immune system’s ability to fight it off.”
The FTC warned the company that under the FTC Act, it is not legal to
“advertise that a product or service can prevent, treat, or cure human disease unless you possess competent and reliable scientific evidence, including, when appropriate, well-controlled human clinical studies, substantiating that the claims are true at the time the claims are made.”
Since there are no currently-approved studies on the efficacy of COVID-19 treatments, cures, or the ability to strengthen immune systems against COVID-19; the website and Facebook posts are inherently illegal according to the FCT.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the agency is sending warning letters to companies that claim its products can treat or prevent coronavirus (COVID-19) due to lack of scientific evidence
This Bakersfield, California Company was warned by the FTC on April 29, 2020 that its Facebook account directed consumers to the company website in violation of the FTC Act because of unsubstantiated medical claims including the following:
- Claims that “Those with strong, healthy immune systems are less likely to contract viruses and if they do contract a virus, they are better positioned to effectively fight it…. An IV drip infused with hydration, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes can give your immune system that added boost that is needed to fight viruses, including Coronavirus.”
- Asks consumer to purchase the company’s immune boosting IV (consisting of Vitamin C, Meyers Cocktail, B-Complex, Glutamine and more to strengthen the consumer’s immune system.
- Has a claim that “We also have IV therapy to strengthen your respiratory system. If you are concerned about contracting a virus…including Covid-19, more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, call us now for an appointment and give your immune system a serious boost.”
The Facebook page:
- Asks consumers to “[g]et Your Immune System Boosting IV Treatment NOW!!! Those with healthy and strong immune systems are less likely to contract any virus including the Coronavirus!”
- Claims that, “We have high dose IV VIT C and other key nutrition to boost your immune system now available. As well as other immune boosting and virus defense protocols available.” This post is accompanied by an article titled ‘New York hospitals treating corona patients with VITAMIN C.’”
- Offers colloidal silver for sale with the following claim:
- “One of my favorite natural remedies over the past two decades has been the use of colloidal silver to kill off virus and bacteria that try to invade my body. If you get them early you can kill them off before they invade, hunker down and multiply…. We just got two cases of new improved product at a great price… Let’s kick this SARS-COVD-19 ass naturally and avoid dangerous drugs, vaccines and emergency medical intervention.”
- Claims “Scared of the Corona Virus? We got stem cells!!!” Accompanying this statement is a link to an article titled “Critically ill coronavirus patient saved by stem cells, study says.”
All of these claims violate the FTC Act because there is no reliable scientific or medial evidence to support any claims that there are preventions or cures for COVID-19.
Revive & Rally Health Lounge
The FTC warned this company on May 1, 2020 that they were in violation of the FTC ACT based on unsubstantiated claims of the ability to prevent or treat the coronavirus.
Some of the false claims the FTC found on the company website page titled – “Vitamin C – Your Defense Against Viruses” includes the following:
“There is large speculation about the Coronavirus. What I am here to tell you is that you CAN do more to protect yourself against it than just good hygiene and avoiding crowds! We know high doses of Vitamin C (20-40 mg) given by IV, over one hour will boost your immunity. We recommend our High Dose Vitamin C IV Bag. It will help fight off infections like colds/flu or other viral/bacterial infections. High dose Vitamin C is well established to improve immunity and help healing as we look to this outbreak of Coronavirus.
“Vitamin C is not only a broad antiviral, but Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant, so it will reduce the effect a virus like Coronavirus can have on your body. Dr. Richard Cheng, MD is on the forefront of the battle against Coronavirus in China. (see attached studies below) He’s reporting from China on the immediate use of Vitamin C for prevention of Coronavirus (COVID-19). ‘Vitamin C is very effective for prevention, and especially promising to treat patients when there is no better treatment. The current sole focus on vaccine and specific antiviral drugs for epidemics is misplaced.’”
Additional IV therapy and Vitamin C therapy warning letters were sent by the FTC to the following companies:
- Cypress Natural Medicine (Palo Alto, California)
- DetoxVIP (West Palm Beach, Florida)
- Holistique Naturopathic Medical Center (Bellevue, Washington)
- McDonagh Medical Center (Gladstone, Missouri)
- Onus IV (Denver, Colorado)
- Riordan Clinic (Wichita, Kansas)
- The Epigenetics Healing Center, LLC (Overland Park, Kansas)
- The LaCava Center (St. Charles, Illinois)
- Whole Health Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
Air Purifiers/Sanitizers and Water Filters
Several companies making unsubstantiated claims about their air purifiers and water filter products also received FTC warning letters. In one example, on April 27, 2020, the FTC sent a warning letter to EcoShield, LLC, a San Diego, California company – after reviewing the company website, company Facebook page, and company Instagram page. The FTC also reviewed in-store advertising for Eco AirDoctor at a Bartell Drugs Store in Seattle, Washington. Eco AirDoctor is a “device that purportedly emits chlorine dioxide gas and intended to be worn on an individual.”
- Company website claim. “Coronavirus Protection? Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, no testing has been done on the virus. ECO AirDoctor Portable’s active ingredient releases chlorine dioxide which is known to protect and disinfect against diseases such as influenza, common colds, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and respiratory infections.”
- Facebook post. “The next generation of virus protection and deodorization. Simply clip on to help protect you against colds, flu, bacteria, fungus, and other airborne diseases that affect millions every year. https://ecoairdoctor.com #coronavirus #flu #covid19 #covid #WuhanPneumonia #WuhanCoronavirus #coronavirusoutbreak . . . MORE EFFECTIVE THAN A FACE MASK”
- In-store advertising. “The patented Eco AirDoctor, once clipped on and activated eliminates microbes by slowly and continuously releasing safe and effective chlorine dioxide into the atmosphere around you. This patented release of chlorine dioxide helps protect you from airborne infectious diseases such as Influenza, Colds, Coughs, and Respiratory Infections.”
The warning later stated that, since there are no known studies, any claims about the ECO AirDoctor’s ability to prevent coronavirus are invalid. Corrective measures must be taken and the FTC must be notified of those compliance steps within 48 hours from the receipt of the letter.
Additional FTC letters were filed against:
The FTC warning letters that are being sent to manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of products that claim the products can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 state these claims are inherently false because there are no current scientific studies validating any preventions, treatments, or cures for COVID-19. Experienced FTC healthcare lawyers understand what claims are likely to violate the FTC Act and to cause a warning letter to be sent.
Contact Cohen Healthcare Law Group, PC for legal counsel on federal and state healthcare compliance issues. Our experienced healthcare lawyers and FTC healthcare attorneys help dietary supplement, drug, and other companies evaluate their compliance requirements and respond to warning letters and other enforcement actions.