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As COVID-19 Spreads, So Does Consumer Fraud

Posted  March 13, 2020

“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” This was the firm reminder sent to seven companies this week via FDA-FTC warning letters.

The businesses were told to cease unproven efficacy claims in the marketing of their products, and were given 48 hours to respond to the government with specific actions they were taking to stop this practice. Absent a satisfactory response, the companies stand to face legal action seeking a Federal District Court injunction, and in some cases may be required to refund money to customers. Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show were hawking items by making the following claims—some of which suffer from overtly racist messaging, not amplified here.

      • “Wellness!! Vital Silver!!! Simple!!! Go on the offense this year against viruses including the Coronavirus – it’s simple!”
      • “If you don’t want to make your own blends, Quinessence Anti-virus Synergy contains some of the most powerful, expertly blended anti-viral essential oils that can be used . . . to deliver you protection. Since this new strain of virus continues to be a very serious threat right now, it certainly can’t hurt to use the essential oils you already have to avoid infection until a cure has been developed . . . ”
      • “What is Coronavirus Treatment and Prevention? . . . Colloidal silver 1100 PPM, Home remedy for 123 years! (testing showed every known coronavirus killed in 4 min. in vitro) . . . Although there are 650,000 deaths a year from enfluenza, (sic) the regular flu and infects over 2,000,000 deaths from pneumonia a year, these two viruses pale in comparison to the potential danger to the coronavirus flu. It is very contagious and quick to kill. Colloidal Silver kills all viruses.”
      • “Modern drug therapy targets individual genes, with epidemics similar to CoronaVirus that are highly mutated and drug resistant; we need to use therapeutic benefits of essential oils to target the virus itself not just the specific gene type – GuruNanda #coronavirus”
      • “Each 100 ml of product will last 16 days for a preventative dose and 8 days for an infection dosage. . . .Take Extracts #1 through #3 as preventative. . . .If you are infected, take all 4 products and use the infection dosage.”
      • “Corona virus treatment. Stephen Buhner has analyzed how corona viruses infect tissues, what tissues they infect, and the herbs that are useful to interrupt that process, as well as the herbs useful to shut down the cytokine cascade they create. Here is his protocol. … [T]his is a rather extensive protocol because the particular corona virus that is now spreading world wide is exceptionally potent in its impacts. All the herbs are specific in one way or another for this virus. A number of the herbs are strongly antiviral for corona viruses .…. The formulations are preventative as well as specific for acute infections ….”
      • “But this influenza [sic] that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that Silver Solution would be effective? Well let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus, and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours, totally eliminate it, kills it, deactivates it”

The warning letters elicited a quick response from the vendors, with all but one deleting the misleading messaging. Vital Silver has removed the posts in question. Quinessence’s twitter account has been suspended. N-ergetics issued a statement on their website rejecting the FDA’s assertions, but also indicating they have addressed all issues pointed out in the letter. GuruNanda removed the content in question. Vivify’s website displays a “site closed” message, and their Facebook presence has been either disabled or removed. And finally, Herbal Amy still offers a Buhner Coronavirus Kit, but it is currently out of stock. They do, however, advise consumers to google “buhner coronavirus protocol” to find “at least a dozen” companies who sell similar products.

Forming a unified front with the FTC and FDA, the DOJ issued a press release this week, informing the business community that anyone found in violation of the antitrust laws by way of the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of public health products, would be held accountable. This guidance was a necessary reminder as businesses seek to exploit and capitalize on communities’ sudden hoarding of certain personal medical supplies due to the emergence of COVID-19. Activities will be monitored by the recently announced Procurement Collusion Strike Force, which will be able to coordinate not only at the federal level, but with state and local agencies as well.

Reports of suspected antitrust or bid rigging violations can be reported to the DOJ. Consumers can learn how to spot scams by regularly reviewing the FTC’s blog or by signing up for email updates.

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Tagged in: Healthcare Fraud,


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