The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued warning letters to seven companies allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat coronavirus (COVID-19).
The companies advertise products including essential oils, teas, colloidal silver, and tinctures, which the FDA determined as “intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose COVID-19 in people.” According to the FDA, there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. The FDA expressed particular concern that products making such claims may cause consumers to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm.
In addition to the warnings from the FDA, the FTC stated that because there are currently no vaccines or products available to treat or cure COVID-19, one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence and therefore may violate the FTC Act.
The FDA and FTC requested the companies respond within forty-eight hours describing the specific steps they have taken to correct the violations.
Takeaway: These warning letters are the first issued by the FDA and FTC alleging unapproved and/or unsupported claims that products can treat or prevent coronavirus. Regulators will take an aggressive stance in monitoring claims and bring enforcement actions against companies looking to scam consumers and profit off of the COVID-19 public health emergency.