Drug Counterfeiters Never Sleep: How Fake Drug Makers and Other Scammers are Exploiting COVID-19

Source: FDA

Since the first cases of COVID-19 surfaced in the United States in mid-January, counterfeiters and profiteers have offered the public fake treatments and unfounded advice. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned seven different companies on March 9th about their sales of so-called treatments to cure COVID-19. FTC Chairman Joe Simons expressed concern about these scams: “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 warned that these counterfeit treatments could delay or stop appropriate medical treatment and endanger patients’ lives. The seven companies that received warning letters from the FDA and FTC about their fake COVID-19 treatments are Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., Xephyr, LLC doing business as N-Ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and The Jim Bakker Show. The warning points out that the FDA has previously warned that colloidal silver is not a safe or effective treatment for any disease.

The Toledo Blade reports that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has also warned about scams associated with COVID-19. Such scams include fake COVID-19 test kits, counterfeit face masks, phishing scams that pose as health professionals, and a misinformation campaign that claims governments are keeping a COVID-19 vaccine secret.

On March 14th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that they seized counterfeit COVID-19 testing kits at an International Mail Facility at LAX.  According to CBP, the six bags of suspected counterfeit test kits were described as “Purified Water Vials” on outside packaging, but the actual vials were labeled as COVID-19 testing kits.

Google Public Policy said in a tweet that they along with several other tech companies, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube are banding together to combat fraud and misinformation about COVID-19. 

Two PSM Allies have also shared messages encouraging people to use caution with any information pertaining to treatment and testing of COVID-19. The Best Medicines Coalition in Canada has written to Prime Minister Trudeau raising the alarm about essential medicine shortages during the pandemic. Fight the Fakes makes the point that there are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, and that “we are no longer just fighting a virus, but are now also fighting an ever-growing infodemic.”

For information about best practices during the current Coronavirus outbreak, please refer to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), and your local and state health departments for information.