Statement of CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie
It is illegal to market vitamins or other dietary supplements as treatments or preventives for anything, let alone COVID-19. Yet since the start of the pandemic, some supplement makers, includingtelevangelist Jim Bakker and osteopath Joseph Mercola, have made such claims. Alarmed by the risks to consumers such claims pose, particularly during a pandemic, in July 2020, CSPI wrote letters to the government agencies with oversight responsibility urging them to make clear that Mercola’s claims are illegal and to bring enforcement proceedings. We also testified before the Senate and communicated with our members and the public about this and other COVID scams.
We are very glad that the Food and Drug Administration has publicly released a warning letter informing Mercola that he and his company are in violation of the law and must stop making these claims. The FDA found that certain Mercola dietary supplements, including “Liposomal Vitamin C,” “Liposomal Vitamin D3,” and “Quercetin and Pterostilbene Advanced” products, all of which were flagged in CSPI’s letter, were both unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Significantly, the FDA agreed with CSPI that Mercola’s statements on his website and elsewhere, including in articles, established that these products “are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.”
The FDA ordered Mercola to ensure immediately that the products it sells are in compliance with the FD&C Act and to review its “websites, product labels, and other labeling and promotional materials” to ensure that they do not misleadingly represent the products as safe and effective for a COVID-19-related use when they have not been approved by FDA. The FDA also added Mercola.com to a published list on the FDA’s website of “Fraudulent COVID-19 Products.”
Because Mercola’s companies have been the subject of prior FDA warnings against using thermography to screen for breast cancer as well as a Federal Trade Commission settlement prohibiting Mercola from claiming his tanning beds would “slash your risk of cancer”, we urge federal authorities to vigorously monitor Mercola.com and his other related sites, such as stopcovidcold.com, to ensure his compliance. We also urge state attorneys general to investigate how they may further protect consumers from Mercola’s illegal marketing, should it continue.
Americans are justifiably concerned about becoming infected with the coronavirus and contracting COVID-19. Being misled to believe that supplements could prevent or treat COVID-19 could cause consumers to fail to take protective measures such as mask-wearing, putting themselves and others at risk, or fail to seek actual medical treatment if sick.