Advertisers: Stop unproven COVID claims or face penalties under new law

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FTC staff sent 30 warning letters to companies, raising concerns about their COVID-related advertising claims. In two notable ways, some of these letters differ from letters we’ve sent to other marketers pitching products advertised to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.

First, letters sent after the effective date of the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act warn marketers that anyone who makes deceptive claims about the treatment, cure, prevention, or mitigation of COVID-19 is subject to civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation. But even advertisers that didn’t get a letter should heed that loud-and-clear warning. The FTC has already filed its first action under the new law, asking the Court to impose civil penalties. The FTC is monitoring the marketplace closely and – to quote recent FTC testimony before Congress – will use the new law “to intensify our efforts to protect consumers from unscrupulous actors that seek to exploit the pandemic and its economic fallout.” In response to the warning letters, it looks like all 30 companies have removed their questionable claims. But the resounding message to others is to take down your COVID misrepresentations now.

Second, if you scroll down to the bottom of letters sent since April 1st, you’ll see something interesting in the cc: field. A number of platforms – including Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, Twitter, and YouTube – received copies of the letters, indicating that some of the recipients’ deceptive claims had run on those platforms.

Here are the businesses that received the latest round of letters.

Accelerated Health Products LLC. The Costa Mesa, California, company made COVID-related claims for multiple devices and supplements containing silver and iodine. For example, the company stated its Accelerated Scalar Silver is enhanced “to increase its ability to devitalize all viruses, bacteria and other foreign pathogens” and “cancel out the negative frequencies of foreign pathogens, including the current one we are all concerned about.”

Alpha Hormones Inc. The Beverly Hills business promoted its products and services – including Thymosin Alpha-1 treatments – as a way to “BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM AGAINST COVID-19.”

Biamonte Center for Clinical Nutrition. In ads for Wei Labs Silver Flower Herbal Supplement and Golden Flower Herbal Tea, the Astoria, New York, business stated, “Coronavirus Treatment & Prevention – Over 90% Success Rate!” The center also claimed that the Silver Flower product “addresses individuals who are symptomatic or diagnosed with the Coronavirus who are experiencing mild, moderate, and even severe symptoms.”

Butterfly Holistic Center, LLC. “Worried about how you or a loved one will fare if you contract the novel coronavirus, COVID-19? According to several preliminary reports, medical professionals may have a treatment that can quickly and drastically improve the condition of COVID-19 patients: Oxygen Ozone Therapy.” That’s how the Phoenix business promoted its ozone-related treatments on its website and in social media.

Celebration Saunas, Inc. “COVID-19 I’m coming for you! I have a secret weapon that induces a natural low-grade fever to kill off all you buggers and sweat them out before they take hold in my body.” What was the Colorado company’s purported secret weapon? “[O]ne of the most relevant proven health benefits in the current coronavirus/ SARS-CoV-2 environment is a far infrared sauna’s ability to literally induce a low-grade fever to kill off latent viruses.”

Enlighten Sauna. In promoting its products, the Burlingame, California, business advertised “Boosting Your Immune System With Infrared Sauna To Counter New Coronavirus: How infrared sauna can help against novel coronavirus by boosting your immune system.”

Family First Medical Center. The Edinburg, Texas, center encouraged consumers to make appointments to receive prescriptions for a drug advertised to prevent or treat COVID-19. On social media, it promoted a drive-through clinic to distribute the medication. According to a post, “You will also be given a ziploc baggy to put your $40 cash in for your Drive-thru office visit. No checks or credit cards accepted. No change will be given. CASH ONLY.” A later post advised, “Use the second lane from the building and use the code word Flamingo so we know what you are in line for!”

45 Urgent Care, P.C. Based in Jackson, Tennessee, 45 Urgent Care advertised that it was “introducing a new service that includes the use of Thymosin Alpha-1 as both a preventive measure and a treatment for viral infections. We are currently prescribing it to treat patients who are COVID-19 positive because of its known effectiveness against viruses.”

Freedman Chiropractic Center, LLC. The website of the East Brunswick, New Jersey, office included a page titled “Battle the Coronavirus Bug With Chiropractic.” The center described “good habits to help protect yourself against COVID-19,” including “Get a chiropractic adjustment. After all, chiropractic does much more than relieve back and neck pain; it helps you stave off serious illnesses.”

Ideal Body Center. Based in Loomis, California, the business promoted Vitamin C IV therapy on its website and on social media. Stating that consumers could “Boost your immune system against COVID-19!!!!!!!,” the company claimed, “High dose Vitamin C given via IV has shown to have possible cytoprotectant (cell protective) benefits and has helped patients with Covid-19.”

Illuminate Plastic Surgery. In promoting its treatments, the Palo Alto, California, office stated, “Pandemic or no pandemic, thymosin alpha 1 injections are a great thing to add to your self-care routine. But with COVID-19 in full force, thymosin alpha 1 can be a power protector against the virus specifically.”

ImmuneMist. Claiming that its products will “Wash Away 99.99% of Germs and Viruses,” the website of the Miami business showed pictures of ImmuneMist Nasal Cleanse and ImmuneMist Oral Cleanse with the statement on the labels “Triple-action formula to wash away COVID.” The company conveyed similar claims on social media.

Infinitum Health, LLC. In promoting products containing mushroom and seaweed extracts, the Arizona company claimed, “Another incredible step forward for COVID-19 research, this time, using mushroom research on inhibition, highlighting one of our newcomer extracts – cordycepin. This is found in Cordyceps species of mushroom, already found our product, Infinimin.”

JB7, LLC. The warning letter cites COVID-related claims the Wheat Ridge, Colorado, company made for Physician’s Choice probiotic supplements, including that “a correlation between the gut microbiota of patients experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms and the plasma levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers. These findings indicate the composition of bacteria in your intestines may influence the severity and outcome of the disease.”

Karlfeldt Center. In promoting products called Viressence, Mineral Matrix, and IonBiome – as well as hydrobaric oxygen treatment, IVs, and photodynamic therapy – the Idaho company claimed, “Dr. Karlfeldt’s package of supplements to help your body fight off any virus, including the Coronavirus, at the first signs!”

Liebowitz Longevity Medicine. Asking “IS A COVID-19 CURE BEING IGNORED BY THE FDA AND CDC RIGHT UNDER OUR MASK-COVERED NOSES?” the Santa Monica, California, office promoted its ozone therapy as a “simple, inexpensive treatment” for COVID.

Limitless Male Medical Clinic. The Omaha clinic promoted its peptide therapy with claims that “Thymosin Alpha 1 inhibits viral replication, stimulates stem cells, and aids in the production of new immune cells. Once it helps activate the immune system, it then helps kill bacteria, fungal, viral infections, and tumor cells. The immune system function is very critical to prevent disease and infection, especially during viral pandemics, such as COVID-19. . . .”

Med-Thrive Dallas and Med-Thrive Fort Worth. The Texas business promoted IV therapy and vitamin injections by representing – among other things – that a study established that COVID patients “who received Vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get Vitamin C.”

NeilMed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The Santa Rosa, California, company promoted its products on webpages with the text “BENEFITS AND SAFETY OF NASAL SALINE IRRIGATIONS IN A PANDEMIC – WASHING COVID-19 AWAY.” The business made similar claims on social media.

Noble Elements LLC. The Wyoming company promoted its Coated Silver Colloidal Silver Concentrate with the claim, “Flying during covid. Killer dose. 5 drops. Better Safe than Sorry. Travel Bravely!” In addition, it represented, “With coated silver, you can improve your immune function and protect yourself from viruses with little to no health risks.” That statement was accompanied by images of spiked spheres depicting the coronavirus.

Palm Integrative Health, LLC. The warning letter cites COVID-related claims the Ladue, Missouri, office made for IV infusions, salt therapy, BioMat and PEMF sessions, and acupuncture. In addition, the business sold a COVID-19 Exposure Supplement Pack so that people exposed to the virus can “help prevent yourself from developing a case of the virus,” and a COVID-19 Treatment Supplement Pack to “help your body fight off the virus and reduce the severity of your symptoms.”

ReNew Integrated Medical Spa. The Texarkana, Texas, spa promoted its services by claiming that peptides do “everything from helping improve the pain of arthritis, to improving muscle and mood, but also improves our resistance to such invaders as the recent corona virus that causes COVID . . . .”

Rocky Mountain Regenerative Medicine. The Boulder, Colorado, clinic advertised products and services, including peptide therapy, ozone therapy, and stem cell therapy, with the claim that “WE CAN HELP WITH PREVENTION AND COVID-19 NATURAL TREATMENTS!”

Southwellness Medical LLC. Also doing business as Southwellness COVID Solutions, the Arizona office advertised “A Holistic Approach to COVID-19 Prevention, Testing & Therapy,” including “private label immune-boosting regimen is custom-formulated based on extensive experience treating a wide range of COVID-19 patients.” The company made similar representations on social media.

Texas Wellness Center. In promoting its products, IV treatments, and peptide therapies, the Bee Cave, Texas, clinic advertised them as “the preventative actions that you can take to help mitigate your exposure to the virus . . . .” The company also marketed its products and services as “just a few steps you can take to supplement your preventative actions against the cold, flu, and other viruses like the Coronavirus . . . .”

ThrIVe Drip Spa. “The best defense against COVID-19 exposure is a strong immune system. Hi dose vitamin C infusions have been found to successfully treat infected patients in 3 studies in China. We offer immune system support with our Immuno Drips. We even delivered such treatment to the Director of Emergency Services to the City of Houston.” That’s just one statement the Texas spa made about its IV treatments.

Total Life Energy Plan. Here’s what the Framingham, Massachusetts, business said on its website: “Coronavirus: We want to help you to protect yourself and to heal from the virus with our special exercise, energy healing, and free blog.” The company also promoted “7 Exercises for Combating Coronavirus $45.00.”

Transform You LLC. The Tempe, Arizona, clinic advertised Thymosin Alpha 1, Thymosin Beta 4, LL-37, and Pentosan Polysulfate peptide therapies on its webpage and through social media. For example, the company asked, “Are you worried about the recent spread of the #Coronavirus? Learn more about how you can work to prevent it and boost your immune system against it. You have options! #health #covid19 #immunesupport #peptides.” Accompanying the post was an image of a person’s nose and mouth next to large spiked cells floating in the air.

Viking Alternative Medicine. “COVID 19 BOOST IMMUNE SYSTEM WITH THYMOSIN ALPHA 1.” That’s just one statement the Hudson, Florida, business made in advertising a nasal spray.

Xceed Wellness. In marketing products containing Silver Flower and Golden Flower, the River Forest, Illinois, company claimed, “Yes You Can Fight COVID-19 and Other Viruses NATURALLY! And we will explain how without the hype and confusion.”
 

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