FTC seeks injunction against marketer of vitamin/mineral supplement

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Morsa Images.
©Getty Images - Morsa Images.

Related tags COVID-19 regulations coronavirus disease claims

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a request for a permanent injunction against a dietary supplement marketer that allegedly made repeated claims to treat COVID-19 via a vitamin/mineral product.

The case was filed before Thanksgiving in US District Court in the Northern California Division in Oakland.  The defendants are a California firm, Precision Patient Outcomes, Inc., and the firm’s CEO, Margrett Priest Lewis.

According to the complaint​, Lewis and her company claimed to treat COVID-19 with a dietary supplement that, according the Commission, was “nothing more than vitamins, zinc, and a flavonoid.”

“The FTC will halt baseless claims about COVID-19 treatments that harm consumers’ pocketbooks and health,” ​said Samuel Levine, Director of the Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We don’t simply seek to stop this kind of fraud, but to permanently prohibit companies and company owners engaging in misconduct from endangering the health and well-being of American consumers.”

Firm at first sought FTC’s advice

The product in question was originally labeled as COVID-19 Resist.  According to FTC’s complaint, the company notified the Commission that it planned to begin marketing the supplement and that it believed that it had “competent and reliable scientific evidence”​ to make the planned claims.  

According to the complaint, the firm requested that FTC review its website and marketing materials to make sure it was in compliance.

FTC responded that it “does not pre-review advertising materials to opine on their compliance with the FTC Act”​ and that it is “the advertiser’s sole responsibility to ensure compliance with truth-in-advertising laws and [that Defendants] should consult legal counsel if [they] seek an opinion on the legality of [their] advertising.”

Links to prior enforcement actions

FTC said its response provided the company with information on the joint FTC/FDA effort to police non compliant COVID-19 claims. The company was supplied with links to the more than 400 warning letters that have been issued on the subject.  It also included specific information about a FTC action that sought monetary damages​ against a chiropractor who was making COVID-19 treatment claims on a vitamin D and zinc product that was very similar to the COVID Resist formula.

New name, same claims

The FTC complaint alleges that in response the company changed the name of the product to VIRUS Resist, but “continued to explicitly or implicitly claim that VIRUS Resist can treat, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19.”

Despite the new name, the formula itself remained unchanged and consists of 500 mg of Vitamin C, 37 mcg of Vitamin D3, 37 mcg of Vitamin K2, 35 mg of Zinc, and 500 mg of Quercetin Dihydrate.  The same formula is now called BioAssist Immune-fx.

According to FTC, the defendant has provided no credible scientific proof that the formula’s ingredients are effective in treating COVID-19.  The action requests the court hand down a permanent injunction against company and Lewis and award monetary damages in the amount of $43,792 per violation to create a fund to pay back consumers who may have been defrauded.

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