Fake coronavirus cures targeted by feds as infections rise

The FDA and FTC are clamping down on companies claiming to offer coronavirus treatments or cures, the first step in tackling fraudulent COVID-19 medicines and new-age cures. The US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission confirmed today that seven companies have been warned about their health fraud products, which the two agencies say could end up contributing to the greater spread of coronavirus and even more fatalities.

Four primary types of product have been highlighted in the warning letters. The seven companies have variously been offering teas, essential oils, tinctures, and colloidal silver, billing it as either a treatment, prevention, or cure for COVID-19.

"There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19," the FDA said in a statement today. "Although there are investigational COVID-19 vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development and have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness."

The seven letters were issued jointly by the FDA and FTC to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show. Each now has 48 hours to respond, detailing "the specific steps they have taken to correct the violations." If they don't comply, the agencies have the power to take legal action, including seizure and injunction.

While work is underway on finding targeted therapies for coronavirus, which does not respond to the regular flu vaccine, the FDA is also focusing attentions to cutting off fake cures before they take hold. A cross-agency task force has already been established, monitoring social media and online stores for fraudulent products. Major retailers are being asked to report any such products that may be listed by third-party vendors on their platforms.

"The task force has already worked with major retailers and online marketplaces to remove more than three dozen listings of fraudulent COVID-19 products," the FDA said today. "Several have already agreed to monitor their marketplaces for COVID-19 claims."

Online auction site eBay confirmed late last week that it had taken down all COVID-19 related listings – including face masks and disinfecting wipes – as well as blocking the term, to avoid price-gouging and misleading sales.

It's no small issue, either. The concern is that the same sort of skepticism that fuels the "anti-vax" movement skeptical of the efficacy of vaccinations, together with anxiety about the spread of coronavirus, could encourage some to buy fake cures and treatments. "Using these products may lead to delays in getting proper diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 and other potentially serious diseases and conditions," the FDA says.

The EPA has released a list of commercially-available cleaning products that can kill the coronavirus as part of good hygiene protocols at home and when traveling.