June 17, 2024

CSPI Urges FDA Action Against Supplement COVID-19 False Claims

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is asking the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take enforcement action against supplement COVID-19 false claims. The watchdog group found 46 products on Amazon that claimed their supplements fight viruses in a scan on May 29, 2020.

CSPI Urges FDA Action Against Supplement COVID-19 False Claims

CSPI also wants Amazon to delist these products and to work with the FDA and FTC to protect consumers from these manufacturers’ false claims. And CSPI adds that those 46 listings are just a small sample of the “illegal and potentially unsafe supplements currently sold on Amazon and other online retailers.”

Federal law prohibits dietary supplement makers to claim that they prevent, treat, or diagnose any disease, including coronavirus. Many of the supplements CSPI found for sale implied they were antivirals.

Some supplement COVID-19 false claims are especially egregious. Biotica’s Immune Support Capsules claim to help your immune system fight virus and bacteria in the sinuses, throat, and respiratory tract. A supplement called Phytobiotic Capsules claims to “promote normal immunity to bacterial and viral infections.”  And Virus Shield claims that it helps with “flue (sic) infections and decreases incidence and symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.”

Dietary supplement manufacturers may make some health claims, if they have substantiation for those claims. They can say that a multivitamin boosts immunity, for instance. But disease prevention claims are not permitted. The FDA will consider those products unapproved and misbranded new drugs.

Even the names of these products are problematic. Virus Shield, Viracid, Anti-V Formula, and Brochial Virus Care are all for sale on Amazon. The name is relevant, according to the FDA, in considering whether a manufacture is making a disease claim.

CSPI president Dr. Peter Lurie said in a statement, “The most important thing for consumers to know is that no supplement is FDA-approved to treat or prevent COVID. Besides being a waste of money, these products may harm consumers if they decide to opt for a supplement in favor of the things we know that actually help, like hand washing, maintaining social distance, wearing personal protective equipment, or seeking real medical treatment when sick.”

One claim was so bad that the FDA and FTC took enforcement action in February 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Televangelist James Bakker claimed on his show that a silver solution could “kill the coronavirus within 12 hours.” Bakker has been sued by state attorneys general in New York and Missouri over these false claims.


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