FDA commissioner: Be wary of anyone claiming they can cure COVID-19. Talk to your doctor.
Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time. USA TODAY
The health fraud scams can cause delays in proper treatment and may lead to serious injuries or death.
The spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has captured the attention of the world.
Understandably, people are concerned about the best ways to protect themselves and their loved ones. Along with the heightened focus surrounding this global outbreak comes the potential for consumers to be lured into buying unproven or fraudulent products or medicines that claim to treat, prevent or cure infections, including COVID-19.
While the Food and Drug Administration is working full speed, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, to help diagnose, treat and prevent this disease, presently there are no FDA-approved products to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.
Talk to your health care provider
We are aware that unscrupulous marketers are hawking products online and in stores that claim to do just that. Consumers should be wary of anyone making these claims and instead talk with a licensed health care professional before taking or using any such product. Taking matters into your own hands by purchasing and using unproven products without consulting your doctor puts you and others at risk for serious health consequences.
Part of the FDA’s mission is to protect Americans from health fraud. This includes warning about the dangers of purchasing and using medical products or devices that have not been proven safe and/or effective for the uses they claim. Health fraud scams can cause delays in proper diagnoses and treatment and may even lead to more serious injuries or death, all the while wasting American consumers’ hard-earned dollars.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have already issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products. The products cited — teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver — are unapproved drugs that pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law.
False claims will be monitored, but some might slip through the cracks
We will continue to use authorities like this for other bogus products claiming to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. When the FDA takes action in these cases, it is important to note that numerous unapproved and potentially unsafe products will continue to be sold directly to consumers, in part because in the age of the internet, companies or individuals can simply move their products to another platform once the original site is shut down by authorities.
The FDA has dedicated staff closely monitoring for the sale of products making false claims related to COVID-19. The products we are seeing range from herbal products and ayurvedic medicines to protective masks and hand sanitizers. Some are offered for sale in the United States, while others are marketed outside the country to U.S. consumers.
Q&A with former FDA chief: Coronavirus is past containment, but America can limit epidemic
As part of our effort to combat deceptive activity, we are working closely with major retailers who are monitoring their online marketplaces for fraudulent products with novel coronavirus and other pathogen claims. To date, the FDA has received reports of more than 90 products marketed with unapproved claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. The agency has found 50 products marketed on popular online marketplaces with similar, unproven claims. All of these listings have been removed by their respective marketplaces.
We are also monitoring retail stores, websites that appear to be legitimate pharmacies and social media platforms. The FDA will take action against unscrupulous actors who are marketing unlawful products related to this outbreak. Companies that fail to take corrective action immediately may be subject to federal enforcement action, such as seizure or injunction.
Consumers and health care professionals can help by reporting suspected fraud to the FDA’s Health Fraud Program or the Office of Criminal Investigations. To report adverse reactions or other problems with FDA-regulated products, consumers can contact their state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.
What an epidemiologist suggests: Here's what I told my friends about the coronavirus and COVID-19.
The FDA, in conjunction with our federal and international partners, will continue to help advance response efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, and that includes warning consumers against becoming victims of health fraud and taking action to stop health scams.
Dr. Stephen M. Hahn is the commissioner for food and drugs at the Food and Drug Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveFDA