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Consumer Crackdown: Feds issue hundreds of “cease and desist” letters over unproven COVID treatment claims

Expert warns of harmful side effects from unapproved products
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:27 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:31 PM EST
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InvestigateTV - The pandemic has prompted a huge demand for treatments and cures for COVID-19 and its many variants. As that demand increases, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on treatment misinformation. The FTC is warning consumers after identifying hundreds of examples of online advertisements promoting products that aren’t what they seem.

Over the course of the pandemic the FTC, along with the Food and Drug Administration, has sent out cease and desist letters to more than 400 companies and individuals urging them to remove unproven claims that their product treats or prevents COVID-19. If the companies don’t comply, they could face legal action or fines.

“Many of these marketers are in what I would call like the natural product space where they tend to appeal to people who do not, either don’t trust or would prefer not use allopathic medicine,” said Christine Delorme, staff attorney with FTC. Delorme said one major thing for consumers to know, if there’s a medical breakthrough, you won’t hear about it for the first time in an online sales pitch.

“Do a little research, maybe do some google, look for consumer reviews, complaints,” said Delorme. “It can be really hazardous buying from a site you’ve never heard of because you just don’t know who those people are or if they’re going to deliver.”

The FTC warns there is no scientific evidence backing claims that treatments such as vitamin C infusions, herbal remedies, teas, juices, and nasal sprays prevent or treat COVID-19 or the Delta or Omicron variants.

Internal Medicine Pharmacy Specialist Leigh Anne Hylton Gravatt said introducing these treatments could lead to serious side effects.

“That’s really where talking with your doctor about your individual circumstances is important because every patient is different,” said Hylton Gravatt,.

Hylton Gravatt is an Internal Medicine Pharmacy Specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Pharmacy in Richmond, Virginia. She said those bogus treatments could come with high risks for someone with a compromised immune system.

“So, let’s say diabetes, hypertension, renal disease, and a lot of those things can actually be worsened by using these other agents,” said Gravatt.

Bottom line, the FTC says the best places for up-to-date information on covid-19 and its treatments are the Centers for Disease Control and FDA websites.

According to the FTC, if you bought fake COVID-19 treatments, it may be tough to get your money back. If you suspect fraud, tell the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 1-877-382-4357. You can find a complete list of companies that received warning letters by following this link.