The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that they sent warning letters to seven companies who are allegedly making false claims about their products' ability to treat the coronavirus.  The FTC said that these are the first FTC/FDA warning letters about the coronavirus. 

The FTC and the FDA sent the warning letters to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy, N-ergetics, GuruNanda, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy, and The Jim Bakker Show.  The agencies said that they marketed a variety of products, including teas, oils, and colloidal silver, as being able to prevent or treat the coronavirus, even though the FDA says that there are no approved drugs to treat the virus.  The agencies told the companies they had forty-eight hours to inform the agencies about the action they have taken to address their concerns. 

What were the FTC and FDA's specific concerns?  To take the Jim Baker Show as an example, the agencies alleged that the company marketed products containing silver, such as "Silver Sol Liquid," as a treatment for coronavirus.  The FTC said that the company made false and unsubstantiated claims on its website such as:

  • “Silver Solution has been proven . . . to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on . . . and it can kill any of these known viruses" and
  • "So the virus, like the coronavirus that we’re talking about . . . affects the lung tissue so what you can do . . . put it straight . . . in a nebulizer which then creates a steam and you breathe it in and it will go directly into your lungs where that virus is and any other infection.”

In announcing the warning letters, FTC Chairman Joe Simons said, “There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus.  What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”

What's the message here?  in response to the coronavirus health crisis, the FTC and the FDA are taking quick action to head off fraudulent coronavirus claims and have made it clear that they're ready to continue to aggressively prosecute those who make false coronavirus claims in the future. 

Whether you're marketing little known dietary supplements or well-known national brands, think twice about making claims that your product can help consumers in connection with coronavirus.  Like any other health-related advertising claims, your claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence -- and must also not make unapproved drug claims.