As part of its continued policing of COVID-19-related health claims, the FDA has sent a warning letter to Dr. Joseph Mercola and, LLC notifying them they are in violation of federal law.  Mercola is a major figure in the alternative medicine field.  Per a 2019 Washington Post article, Mercola has a net worth of more than $100 million, largely from his companies that sell natural and health-related products.  

According to the FDA’s letter, Mercola has stated that vitamins C and D and quercetin can help treat COVID-19. Some examples provided by the FDA are:

  • “Vitamins C and D are finally being adopted in the conventional treatment of novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2”;  
  • “Vitamin C . . . kills pathogens, including viruses, when taken in high doses.”
  • “Quercetin was initially found to provide protection against SARS coronavirus in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic … Now, some doctors are advocating its use against SARS-CoV-2, in combination with vitamin C, noting that the two have synergistic effects.”  

The FDA concluded that because Mercola sells vitamin C, D and quercetin, and that, per Mercola’s statements, these products “are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 in people … these products are unapproved new drugs sold in violation of section 505(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), 2pt1 U.S.C. § 355(a), as well as violate other provisions of the Act.

The website Natural Products Insider reports that Mercola’s legal team has disputed the FDA's claims, arguing that “[t]he statements referenced in the warning letter are not only truthful and well-documented, they are unequivocally protected educational speech.”  Mercola's team further asserted that “the challenged statements do not appear on any sales website or other media advertising products that Mercola sells” but rather appear “in articles and on Dr. Mercola’s personal Twitter profile, which set forth Dr. Mercola’s views and opinions, separate and distinct from any website where vitamins or supplements are sold.” 

This isn't Mercola's first run-in with the FDA.  Mercola has been previously warned about claims made in connection with coconut oil, chlorella and an infrared camera he claimed could detect certain diseases, including cancer and arthritis.