FDA, FTC Issue First COVID-19 Warnings

Advertising Law

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to seven companies for allegedly making claims that their products can treat or prevent the disease.

Each of the recipients advertises products, from tea to essential oils to colloidal silver, as having the ability to treat COVID-19, the regulators said, despite the fact that there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent COVID-19.

In the letter to The Jim Bakker Show, for example, the agencies said they had reviewed both the show’s website and social media pages and found potential violations of the FTC Act as well as the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act with claims for its Silver Sol Liquid and Silver Lozenges, such as “But this influenza [sic] that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that Silver Solution would be effective? Well let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus, and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours, totally eliminated it, kills it, deactivates it.”

Similarly, the FDA and FTC took issue with claims on Herbal Amy’s website and Facebook page that its products have been used “with other corona virus infections, including SARS, it works well.”

Recipients were instructed “to take immediate action” to correct the cited violations and notified that they were added to a list on the FDA’s website of companies that have been warned about their marketing claims.

“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” FTC Chair Joe Simons said in a statement. “What we don’t need are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims.”

To read the warning letters, click here.

Why it matters: The warning letters are the first sent by the agencies addressing unapproved and/or unsupported claims for COVID-19, but likely will not be the last as the pandemic continues. Simons noted that the letters are just the first step, with enforcement actions to follow if the recipients do not cease making the challenged claims. The agencies also promised to continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces and incoming complaints related to the coronavirus. Claims that products can treat or prevent COVID-19 are high on the list of priorities of the FDA and FTC. Companies should be careful to make sure that they have adequate substantiation for these claims.

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