April 29, 2020 video: After 114 years of protecting Americans, the FDA is still hard at work—on #COVIDscams

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was established in 1906 as part of the Pure Food and Drugs Act to protect Americans from adulterated food and medicines and from criminals selling ineffective, outrageous, and sometimes harmful treatments. Since then, the FDA has shut down countless charlatans and forced products like poisonous eyelash dye; glasses and “easy-to-swallow tapeworms” that claimed to promote weight loss; and fraudulent treatments for cancer or diabetes off the market.

Unfortunately, fake cures are fertile ground for profiteers, and no matter how many products the FDA seizes, more crop up. This is particularly true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA has been working overtime to stop the sale of harmful and ineffective COVID “treatments.” This week The Partnership for Safe Medicines did some research in the FDA’s warning letter archives to survey fake COVID-19 cures. Here’s some of what we found.

Colloidal Silver

Man with blue skin from silver poisoning

Source: Wired

The FDA has warned several companies, including Infowars’ spokesman Alex Jones and The Jim Bakker Show, to stop promoting silver products as immune boosters or cure-alls that can “totally eliminate” coronaviruses, including COVID-19. Colloidal silver (tiny flakes of silver suspended in a liquid, cream or gel) has long been touted as an antibacterial, an immune booster and as a cure for cancer, shingles, and other illnesses. Despite its persistence in the fake-cure market, colloidal silver is not a safe or effective treatment for anything. It interacts with antibiotics and thyroid medication, and can cause kidney damage and neurological problems, as well as argyria, a rare condition that turns a person’s skin permanently blue.


Image of copper touch product

Source: FDA

Coppertouch, LLC, an enterprising Minnesota-based company, garnered a joint letter from the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission on April 21, 2020 for selling bars and disks made of “antimicrobial copper” to be used in the place of soap or hand sanitizer. At the time the letter was sent, Coopertouch’s website claimed that its copper disks would kill enterobacter aerogenes, staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, clostridium difficile, influenza A, adenovirus, fungi and coronaviruses.

Chlorine Dioxide (Bleach)

image of chloride dioxide product

Source: FDA

In early April, the FDA warned the Genesis II Church of Healing in Bradenton, Florida for a second time to stop making unfounded claims about the benefits of chlorine dioxide as a cure-all product, particularly with regard to COVID-19. Chlorine dioxide is an industrial bleach commonly used for stripping textiles and water treatment. Like colloidal silver, the chemical has been promoted by quack healers as a miracle cure for a broad variety of conditions, among them autism, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and now, COVID-19. In July 2010, the FDA warned that the bleach could “cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.” A recent study of U.S. poison control data shows that calls regarding hypochlorite bleaches ranged from 43,000 to 46,000 per year between 2012 and 2016. At least 50 people have suffered life threatening injuries as a result of treatment with chlorine dioxide since 2014, and eight people have died.

Homeopathic, Herbal and "Natural" Remedies

Ima ge of a bag of dried boneset

Source: FDA

Companies that sell alternative and “natural” remedies are frequent flyers in FDA’s COVID-19-related warning letters over the last few months. The agency warned three companies selling homeopathic products for the treatment of COVID-19 that “...it is unlawful... to advertise that a product can prevent, treat, or cure human disease unless you possess competent and reliable scientific evidence...substantiating that the claims are true at the time they are made.”

The agency has also dispatched warning letters to online herbal hawkers marketing magical cures involving arsenic, jasmine, boneset, wolfsbane, buckwheat, sea onion, licorice root, elderberry, honeysuckle, poison gooseberry, compost, jellyfish, green tea, ginseng, forsythia, garlic, and...cow feces.

If it isn’t bad enough that companies are selling these sometimes-harmful products as COVID-19 treatments with no evidence that they are effective, there is also the fact that they are being produced in unregulated environments. No one who buys these products can be sure that they were made in a facility with clean manufacturing standards, that they are the stated strength, or that they contain the ingredients they claim to. In 2019, for example, the FDA sent a warning letter to a homeopathic drug manufacturer who sold misbranded products produced in a factory infested with moths and mold.

Want to follow FDA’s work protecting us from #covidscams?

Sources for this week’s video:

FDA Warning Letters:

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