04 October 2020

COVID scams

'Unicorn Poo and Blessed Waters: COVID-19 Quackery and FDA Warning Letters' by Katrina A. Bramstedt in (2020) Therapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science comments 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global setting of clinical crisis and human anxiety. Without available safe and effective vaccines and cures, an unscrupulous marketplace has emerged selling COVID-19 quackery (fraudulent misrepresentation of preventions and treatments). 

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning Letters issued from March 2020 to July 2020 were analyzed for themes pertaining to unapproved, adulterated, and misbranded COVID-19 products. 

During this period, the FDA issued 3,139 Warning Letters of which 98 (3.14%) of these were focused on COVID-19-related drugs, devices, biologics, and dietary supplements (products and ingredients). Specifically, these Warning Letters revealed regulatory nonconformities involving 40 identified herbs, 22 minerals/compounds, 6 devices and biologicals, and 3 vitamins. Products included hand sanitizers; COVID-19 antibody test kits; herbal teas and tinctures; nasal gel; toothpaste; and 1 vaccine. Nine Warning Letters were issued for products being sold via the Amazon online shopping platform. 

A small percentage of FDA Warning Letters recently have been focused on COVID-19. These Letters expose the blatant and potentially harmful quackery of vendors across the world who prioritize financial gain over clinical beneficence. Patient history-taking should include queries about non-traditional and unapproved products to identify, document, and report potentially harmful quackery. FDA Warning Letters are a component of meaningful corrective action; however, greater effort in spreading awareness of such misrepresented, unapproved, and adulterated products is needed to deter purchases of such products.