FDA Cracks Down On Fake Ebola Cures Sold Online
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
There aren't any Ebola treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but as Lauren Silverman reports from member station KERA, there are still companies out there trying to sell us a cure. That's in air quotes, by the way.
LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Vitamin C, Nano Silver, herbs and snake venom all have been claimed to treat Ebola. None has the backing of the FDA.
GARY COODY: Unfortunately during public health threats such as Ebola, fraudulent products that claim to prevent, treat or cure the disease often appear on the market almost overnight.
SILVERMAN: Gary Coody is the FDA's national health fraud coordinator.
COODY: Also, consumers who are misled by false claims may delay seeking the medical care they need, such as proper diagnosis and supportive care.
SILVERMAN: So the FDA has sent warning letters to three companies it says are making fraudulent claims about Ebola cures. The letters threaten property seizure and even criminal prosecution if the companies don't respond appropriately.
NATHAN CORTEZ: This is very much public shaming and it's one mechanism that FDA uses to lean on companies in a very public way.
SILVERMAN: That's Nathan Cortez. He teaches law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
CORTEZ: It's also meant as a message to other companies to say, we know companies are trying to defraud the public with fake Ebola tests and treatments and we're on the case.
SILVERMAN: Two of the companies that got the FDA warning letters didn't return emails, but Ralph Fucetola of the New Jersey-based company Natural Solutions Foundation says he heard the message loud and clear. Natural Solutions received the warning for its claims that a nutrient known as Nano Silver can effectively kill Ebola. Fucetola spoke via Skype.
RALPH FUCETOLA: We understand that there's no approved treatment for Ebola. Since we are in the middle of negotiating with the government with regard to how we can best describe what we believe is a very important health breakthrough, we are not using legal term of our treatment of disease.
SILVERMAN: The company may not say that Nano Silver treats Ebola, but it has claimed on its website, Twitter and Facebook that Ebola does have a cure. While there are experimental drugs and vaccines being tested in the current Ebola outbreak, nothing so far has been proven to work. Online, other companies tout clove oil, oregano and homeopathic treatments to prevent the virus. There's even a tutorial that was up on YouTube for a do-it-yourself Ebola vaccine. Some businesses, law professor Nathan Cortez says, know how to take advantage of fear.
CORTEZ: You know, it's like storm-chasing roofers who go and try to defraud people after a big storm. Some of them may be making an honest mistake. Other companies are trying to rip people off.
SILVERMAN: Mistake or not, the FDA says Internet Ebola cures are misleading and dangerous. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.