FTC hits marketer with lawsuit over pricey ‘FDA accepted’ COVID-19 ‘treatment’ plan

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images sittithat tangwitthayaphum
Getty Images sittithat tangwitthayaphum

Related tags: Fda, Ftc, Cspi, disease claims, COVID

The Federal Trade Commission charged Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc. with deceptively advertising an ‘Emergency D-Virus’ treatment as a scientifically proven way to treat COVID-19. The company even went as far as claiming their treatment was ‘FDA accepted.’

According to the FTC’s complaint, the California-based company began marketing its $23,000 Emergency D-Virus treatment plan in March. The marketing included advertisements on billboards, websites, and social media.

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The FTC charges that Golden Sunrise falsely claims that the company’s supplements are “uniquely qualified to treat and modify the course of the Coronavirus epidemic in CHINA and other countries,”​ and that those who use it will experience the “disappearance of viral symptoms within two to four days.”

“What they’re claiming is blatantly illegal,” ​said Laura MacCleery, Policy Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “$23,000 treatments that promise to cure COVID within a few days is well on the far edge of outrageous in terms of pandemic claims that I’ve seen.”

These supplements include ImunStem, Aktiffvate, and AnterFeerons.

History

In April, the FTC sent Golden Sunrise a warning letter instructing them to immediately remove all advertising claims that the products could prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. However, Golden Sunrise continued to market their COVID-19 treatment, according to the FTC.

“We warned the defendants not to falsely market their product as an effective treatment for COVID-19, but they didn’t stop,” ​said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith. “As this case makes clear, the FTC is prepared to sue companies that continue to make deceptive health claims about COVID-19 or other serious diseases.”

Under federal law, dietary supplements are prohibited from claiming they can prevent or treat any virus or specific disease. Products making antiviral claims are of particular concern, because the FDA has said products that make COVID-19 claims may cause consumers to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to potentially life threatening complications.

Disease claims

According to FTC, Golden Sunrise has a history of promoting and selling dietary supplements as treatments for diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease, as well as other different serious health conditions and diseases.

The FTC blog points out that a testimonial video by Golden Sunrise shows the company telling a cancer patient that one of their products will “strip the edges off the tumors and expose them so that the body’s own immune system can attack.” ​Another video featuring a customer included this statement: “We’ve cured cancer. I truly believe at this point. I can’t feel it anymore; I haven’t felt it in about six or seven days. I truly believe that the cancer has been cured.” 

Some of these treatments cost as much $200,000. 

“There’s a sense among all of us that we would pay any sum to be able to return to our lives as they were. And there’s this incredible appeal for products like this in this moment when we’re grinding through such an exhausting stage of the disease and so there’s probably a very target-rich environment for those who will promise to make you safe and take all your money,”​ said MacCleery. 

The FTC also alleges that Golden Sunrise falsely claimed their products have been reviewed and accepted by the FDA, and designated safe and effective.

The FTC complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California. In addition to Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., the FTC complaint names as defendants Golden Sunrise Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and the companies’ principals, Huu Tieu and Dr. Stephen Meis.

The FTC thanked Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties for their assistance with the investigation of this case.

Golden Sunrise did not respond to NutraIngredients-USA's​ request for comment.

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