FDA Pushes Back Against Fraudulent COVID-19 Remedies

When tragedy strikes, you can count on two things:  (1) some people working to find real solutions, and (2) others trying to take advantage of the situation for a quick profit.

With an ever-increasing amount of misinformation circulating with respect to COVID-19, the FDA has been forced to step up measures to protect the public from predatory merchants peddling unproven, fraudulent, or dangerous products. In a May 7 press release, the agency noted its recent efforts to combat the marketing of faulty or outright fraudulent COVID-19 remedies, tests, and PPE (personal protective equipment).

In an effort that the FDA has dubbed “Operation Quack Hack,” the agency has issued 42 warning letters to marketers accused of making bogus claims with respect to products marketed for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of COVID-19.

Where necessary, the FDA has engaged the federal courts to issue injunctions to prohibit the continued marketing of those products.  In at least one instance, the product at issue was “Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS) – otherwise known as chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach.

MMS is not new. The FDA issued a warning to the public in August 2019 that MMS merchants were selling sodium chlorite solution and instructing consumers to mix the solution with something containing a citric acid, such as lemon juice, and drink the mixture.

In reality, mixing sodium chlorite solution with a citric acid, as per these products’ instructions, creates chlorine dioxide, an industrial strength bleach. While this chemical is frequently used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses outside of the body, drinking it can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. No research has been presented to show that it is an effective (or safe) way to treat any disease.

Additionally, the FDA intercepted and investigated a case of items labeled as COVID-19 “treatment kits,” allegedly smuggled into the country for sale by a UK resident, by way of mislabeled parcels shipped to contacts within the U.S. The kits at issue allegedly contained vitamin C, an enzyme mix, potassium thiocyanate, and hydrogen peroxide. According to the affidavit consumers were instructed to add 18 ounces of water, drink half of the solution, take a probiotic along with bee pollen, and then ingest the remainder of the solution. None of the ingredients in the “treatment kits,” alone or in combination, have been shown to be effective treatments of COVID-19.  The alleged fraudster now faces charges in both the U.S. (Central District of California) and in the U.K. (City of London).

The lesson here is to be vigilant when it comes to claims by merchants offering a quick and simple remedy for a price, especially in the midst of a pandemic, when opportunists are more than willing to prey on the desperation of those genuinely seeking a cure.

Written by David Price, Director of Government Affairs