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Coronavirus: U.S. warns Ontario company over false COVID-19 treatment claims

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An Ontario-based holistic clinic is among seven North American companies warned by U.S. regulators to stop selling products with false claims that they can treat the new coronavirus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission announced Monday it issued the warnings letters, saying these “are the first to be issued by the FDA for unapproved products intended to prevent or treat” COVID-19.

Vivify Holistic Clinic, based in Sarnia, Ont., was the sole Canadian company among the seven recipients.

READ MORE: Roughly 55 million N95 masks in Ontario expired before coronavirus hit

“The FDA has determined that your website offers products for sale in the United States and that these products are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose COVID-19 in people,” reads the letter dated March 6.

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The letter outlines several claims the company made on its website and Facebook page about such products.

In one Facebook post, the FDA says Vivify wrote the company was “working very hard” to create a website to sell someone’s allegedly successful coronavirus protocol.

It cites another Facebook post about a tea that the company said they “have used this with other corona virus infections, including SARS, it works well.”

Vivify says its page had appropriate disclaimers and that the post about the tea was made by a third party.

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The FDA letter instructs Vivify to “take immediate action to correct the violations” it cites within 48 hours and warns failure to do so could result in legal action, including seizure and injunction.

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The FDA stresses that “there currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure” the coronavirus.

“Thus, the claims cited above are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence,” the letter reads.

Vivify’s Facebook page and websites no longer appear to show the claims contained in the letter. The URL for the website that the letter says included the words coronavirus defence appears to have been changed to make no mention of the coronavirus.

READ MORE: Ontario confirms 4 new COVID-19 cases; provincial total now 35

A cached version of the coronavirus defence webpage shows it once referred to “CV defense.”

The regulators also sent letters to Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., N-Energetics, GuruNanda LLC, Herbal Amy LLC and The Jim Bakker Show.

The seven companies’ products ranged from inexpensive items to pricey ones, such as Herbal Amy’s $155 Corona Protocol — four bottles of tinctures and tea.

In an email, proprietor Amy Weidner said Herbal Amy isn’t selling treatments, just herbs.

“Within the herbal product description I simply quoted an herbalist. That quote has been removed to adhere to the FDA requirements,” Weidner wrote. The product was still on her site Monday.

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GuruNanda and N-Energetics issued statements that they had removed the claims cited by the FDA.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario confirms new COVID-19 cases; provincial total now 34 – Mar 9, 2020

On Monday morning, Vital Silver’s website was offering products ranging from a fine mist spray for $7.99 to a monthly subscription for soap, gel and “structured silver minerals” for $46.90. By Monday afternoon, the website was inaccessible. Jennifer Hickman, identifying herself as the business owner, wrote in an email that she was unaware her company was violating FDA standards and had removed all statements concerning COVID-19 from the website and social media.

The FDA also said is was working with online marketplaces such as Amazon and had gotten them to remove more than three dozen fake coronavirus products.

— With files from The Associated Press