There is a cacophony of information and misinformation on cures and prevention of COVID-19 that can be mind-numbing. Social media, agenda-driven groups, news outlets, and public officials—the information is endless. Some of the information and products defy common sense, yet the desire for a cure is so strong, some people will try anything. A special Google Trends page tracks interest in coronavirus, COVID-19, and related topics.
While brands and entrepreneurs search for opportunities in the crisis, marketers beware—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is active and scanning the internet for unscrupulous marketers tapping into COVID-19 fears. As of May 7, the FTC has sent more than 120 warning letters to marketers making COVID-19 health claims for their products, and services selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat or cure coronavirus.
“It’s shameful to take advantage of people by claiming that a product prevents, treats, or cures COVID-19,” Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “We’re seeing these false claims for all sorts of products, but anyone who makes them simply has no proof and is likely just after your money.”
The companies receiving warning letters sell everything from a bundle of supplements called an “Anti-Virus Kit” to “Sonic Silicone Face Brushes” and intravenous (IV) “therapies” with high doses of vitamin C. Some letters challenge products sold online, others challenge purported treatments offered in clinics or even at a consumer’s home. Other offenders include homeopathic drugs, cannabinol (CBD) products, teas, essential oils, colloidal silver, traditional Chinese medicine, salt therapy, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, ozone therapy, bio-electric shields, HEPA air purifiers, and UV light therapy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restates, “There currently are no products that are scientifically proven to treat or prevent the virus.”
The letters tell the companies to immediately stop making all claims that their products can treat or cure the coronavirus. The letters also require the companies to notify the FTC within 48 hours of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns. The agency will follow up with companies that fail to make adequate corrections.
The FTC also will continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces, and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to market fraudulent products under a different name or on another website.
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