FTC to marketers: Stop making unsupported COVID treatment claims

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images Aquir
© Getty Images Aquir

Related tags: Ftc, Warning letter, COVID, Health claims regulation

The Federal Trade Commission has sent another round of warning letters to marketers making unsubstantiated COVID-19 health claims. The FTC’s message is simple: Prove it or remove it.

The FTC announced it has sent letters warning 20 more marketers nationwide to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can prevent or treat COVID-19.

Since the pandemic hit, issuing warning letters have become a regular duty for the agency.  This is the eighth batch of warning letters the FTC has sent that warn sellers about “treatments.” The Commission has previously cautioned against intravenous (IV) Vitamin C infusions, ozone therapy, supplements, nasal spray, skincare products, or acupuncture can prevent or treat COVID-19.

In total, the Commission has sent warning letters to nearly 300 companies and individuals.

The latest bundle accused of making virus claims includes the following supplements, vitamins, botanicals, and herbal remedies:

Other marketers to receive warning letters in this latest batch include an antiviral card marketed to act as a virus repellent, as well as chiropractic/acupuncture treatments, electric current devices, IV and ozone therapies, nasal sprays, and skincare products.

The letters to the marketers state that one or more of the efficacy claims made are unsubstantiated because they are not supported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. The letters direct the recipients to immediately stop making all claims that their products can prevent or treat COVID-19, and to notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.

The letters also note that if the bogus claims continue, the Commission may seek a federal court injunction and an order requiring money to be refunded to consumers. 

This was the case for Marc Ching, doing business as Whole Leaf Organics. In April, the FTC announced its case against the marketer for his purported COVID-19 treatment. The case was settled in early July, with Ching agreeing to an order barring him from making the allegedly deceptive claims.

“Let’s be clear: companies making these claims can look forward to an FTC lawsuit like this one,”​ Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith cautioned at the time. 

In July, the FTC filed a federal court complaint against California-based Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical​, Inc. for falsely advertising its $23,000 Emergency-D Virus treatment as an “FDA Accepted” plan for treating COVID-19. The complaint alleges that the company continued to market its COVID-19 treatment even after receiving a warning letter from the FTC in April 2020.

Products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 can be reported to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint​.

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