Colloidal silver, herbal supplements and essential oils are among a number of products currently being fraudulently promoted as cures for COVID-19, as the US Food and Drug Administration targets seven companies peddling unproven treatments.
“The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn in a recent statement. “We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one.”
The FDA, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), issued seven warning letters to companies it says are advertising products with unproven claims of prevention, treatment or cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Three of the seven letters targeted companies selling colloidal silver solutions, formulations of silver particles popularly sold as all-purpose health tonics around one hundred years ago. In 1999, the FDA banned colloidal silver supplement sellers from making any therapeutic claims as scientists comprehensively established the product to have no medical value, and a number of dangerous side effects.
One of the colloidal silver peddlers warned by the FDA is called Pure Vital Silver, operating under the company name Colloidal Vitality LLC/Vital Silver. Cited in the warning letter are a number of false claims made by the company on its Facebook page promoting its silver formulas as protective against the coronavirus threat.
“So it’s actually widely acknowledged in both science and the medical industry that ionic silver kills coronaviruses. And it’s now known that the Chinese are employing ionic silver in their fight against the spread of the coronavirus,” one post allegedly claimed.
The offending posts cited in the letter have since been removed from the company’s Facebook page. Now a post sits on the page suggesting the product being sold is not intended for any medical uses and all content on the page is protected by the First Amendment as religious belief speech.
Another silver salesman cited in the FDA statement is controversial US televangelist Jim Bakker. This is not the first time Bakker has come under fire for selling a silver solution with claims of curing COVID-19. Early in the month Bakker was targeted by New York’s Attorney General for fraudulent statements regarding the health virtues of his Silver Solution.
“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,” Bakker is reported as saying in a video now removed from his website.
The state of Missouri has now also filed a lawsuit to stop Bakker and his associated production company from making these unproven claims.
In a recent report from non-profit organization Media Matters it has been suggested the fraudulent claims of colloidal silver as a COVID-19 treatment are continuing despite the FDA’s recent announcement. The organization dedicated to tracking media misinformation alleges Alex Jones was still touting a toothpaste infused with “nanosilver” as effective in combating the virus as recently as Tuesday.
“The patented nanosilver we have, the Pentagon has come out and documented and Homeland Security has said this stuff kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range,” Jones is reported as saying.
Two companies targeted by the FDA are suggested to have been touting essential oils as “clinically proven” to protect a person from contracting COVID-19. Quinessence Aromatherapy LTD and GuruNanda LLC were both sent warning letters from the FDA citing an assortment of false claims on social media and websites.
Again, the offending posts and pages have been removed, however, the FDA quotes several misleading posts, including one published on the GuruNandaEO Facebook page claiming, “Municipalities of Wuhan have declared that people should use Pure essential oils as a preventative therapy.”
“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” explained FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a statement. “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.”
The FDA says a task force has been established to monitor online marketplaces and social media for products being sold with fraudulent claims. It also notes there are no drugs, vaccines, or approved treatments for COVID-19 at this point in time. And while there are vaccines in development, the general public should be skeptical of any product claiming to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19.
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