FDA warns Idaho company to stop selling fraudulent coronavirus treatments
Audrey Dutton and David J. Neal, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — An Idaho business has been added to a federal health-fraud list for selling unapproved coronavirus treatments.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent a warning letter last week to Herbal Amy, a Nampa-based company that sells CBD and herbal products on its website.
One of those products is called the “Buhner Coronavirus Kit” or the “Coronavirus Protocol.” The website was selling the kit for $155 on Tuesday as a “Coronavirus Protocol” made up of three tinctures and a tea.
“We request that you take prompt action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products for mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of COVID-19,” said the letter to Herbal Amy and its proprietor, Amy Weidner.
Herbal Amy was one of seven companies added to receive joint warning letters from the FDA and FTC demanding they cease selling “fraudulent COVID-19 products.”
Most of the companies are not well-known, with one exception: convicted fraudster and longtime televangelist Jim Bakker’s daily show.
“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a news release. “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 is concerned that people who use products that claim to treat or cure the new coronavirus won’t get proper medical treatment, it said in the same news release.
“The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in the release. “We understand consumers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and urge them to talk to their health care providers, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness. We will continue to aggressively pursue those that place the public health at risk and hold bad actors accountable.”
Weidner told the Idaho Statesman that, after removing some of her website’s descriptions of the “Coronavirus Protocol,” she believes she’s in compliance with the law.
“I quoted an herbalist (named Stephen Buhner) who insinuated some stuff, and I took that off there,” she said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
She also wrote in a blog post Tuesday that the FDA and FTC joint letter “was simply an administrative warning that we cannot make any claims concerning herbal products. We removed the passage containing Mr Buhners description of the products and are in order to be in compliance with all FDA requirements. The quality of the product was never in doubt and we continue to service clients nationwide.”
The website had described the product as “a rather extensive protocol because the particular coronavirus that is now spreading worldwide is exceptionally potent in its impacts. All the herbs are specific in one way or another for this virus. A number of the herbs are strongly antiviral for coronaviruses. … The formulations are preventative as well as specific for acute infections …”
It also said, “Stephen Buhner has used this with other coronavirus infections, including SARS, it works well.”
Weidner removed a blog post that included the same claims about the product’s effectiveness against coronavirus, after the Statesman brought it to her attention.
The website had been changed further on Wednesday to say the coronavirus kit was out of stock. The kit’s description also had been changed to include the following:
“These packages are designed to boost your immune system (to help prevent) and treat viral symptoms with herbal remedies that have been used for centuries. We do not claim to be able to cure the coronavirus. … There is currently no known cure, or even treatment for many bacterial and viral infections. You must Always seek medical attention if you think you might be ill, and follow any guidelines outlined by health agencies such as WHO and the CDC. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat Prevent, or in any way cure any disease.”
Jim Bakker, colloidal silver, essential oils
In addition to Herbal Amy, warning letters went to:
“The Jim Bakker Show.” The FDA says the show and the show’s website hawked “Silver Sol Liquid” with misleading statements concerning the current coronavirus strain, such as “Silver Solution has been proven … to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on … and it can kill any of these known viruses …”
Also, “But this influenza that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that Silver Solution would be effective? Well let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus, and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours, totally eliminate it, kills it, deactivates it.”
The New York Attorney General sent a cease and desist letter to the show last week, as reported by the Charlotte Observer.
By Monday, the show’s website still sold Silver Sol Liquid, but made no reference to the current coronavirus outbreak. After claims of strengthening the immune system, the site has the standard, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Colloidal Vitality/Vital Silver. This Melbourne, Florida, company sells essential oils products that the FDA says are “unapproved new drugs” and “misbranded drugs.”
Among the Vital Silver’s Facebook posts acting as advertising for the sales website, the FDA says, was a Feb. 6 one that claimed “Wellness!! Vital Silver!!! Simple!!! Go on the offense this year against viruses including the Coronavirus — it’s simple!”
That and other Facebook posts have been removed by Vital Silver.
GuruNanda. This California essential oil dealer claimed cities in Wuhan, the part of China where the new coronavirus flowered, have told people to use pure essential oils for prevention. Also, “Since the flu is spreading so quickly, we want to give 50% off for the essential oils. … Simply type ‘Corona’ in the code box to save immediately.”
Vivify Holistic Clinic. The Ontario, Canada, company’s website coronavirusdefense.com, the FDA said, claimed, “As the deadly cornavirus [sic] rapidly spreads across the globe with no antidote available … Stephen Harrod Buhner (an author of several books on herbal medicine) has created an updated coronavirus protocol specifically for the Wuhan outbreak.”
Quinessence Aromatherapy. This United Kingdom essential oil seller’s website, the FDA said, bragged of “Essential Oils to Protect Against Coronavirus. … There are a wide range of essential oils that have been clinically proven to possess antiviral properties. Whilst these essential oils do not all offer the same level of defence, many have been proven to have a measurable effect on a wide range of infective agents such as influenza A and B, parainfluenza strains 1,2 & 3, vaccinia, herpes simplex and polio.”
Quinessence appears to have removed that and articles titled “Essential Oils to Protect Against Coronavirus,” although the tweet with a link remained this week.
Xephyr doing business as N-Ergetics. The Oklahoma company sells colloidal silver products, which the FDA has said since 1999 are not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.
But N-Ergetics website claimed, “If colloidal silver has killed coronavirus strains in past laboratory test, then the current coronaviruses should also be killed. Protect your immune system try Colloidal Silver 1100 PPM Immune Support.”
The site’s colloidal silver page contained several blanks noted as “deleted as per FDA” and with a link to the warning letter.