FDA Warns More CBD Sellers About Bogus COVID-19 Claims

By Jack Queen
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Law360 (April 8, 2020, 5:11 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has told two more CBD companies to stop making allegedly fraudulent claims that their products prevent or treat COVID-19, part of a broader effort by regulators to crack down on bogus health claims amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The FDA on Monday sent letters to five companies including CBD sellers Native Roots Hemp and Indigo Naturals ordering them to take down the allegedly misleading claims from their sites or face legal action, including monetary penalties, seizures and injunctions.

"Any coronavirus-related prevention or treatment claims regarding such products are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence," the FDA said. "You must immediately cease making all such claims."

Native Roots Hemp claimed that cannabis "speeds recovery" from COVID-19 and touted cannabis resin as an "antiviral" that "inhibits cell proliferation," according to the letter. The company also claimed its soaps and immune-boosting oils could help fight the coronavirus, the FDA said.

Indigo Naturals, meanwhile, suggested that CBD is an antiviral agent for the coronavirus, influenza, MERS and SARS, the FDA said. The company also claimed CBD boosts T-cells with "powerful weapons" that could ward off COVID-19, according to the letter.

The FDA told the companies they were selling misbranded, unapproved new drugs in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The agency said the claims about CBD were also unsupported by science, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Cathay Natural LLC, Ananda Apothecary and Immunization Alternatives were also sent warning letters Monday for allegedly making false COVID-19 health claims about herbal supplements, homeopathic drugs and essential oils.

The FDA has so far sent letters to 21 companies warning them to stop peddling products with fraudulent claims related to COVID-19, according to a list on the agency's website. There are currently no drugs approved to prevent, treat or cure the disease, which has so far infected 1.5 million people worldwide.

The letters are part of a multifront battle by regulators and prosecutors to root out scams proliferating amid the coronavirus pandemic. The initial warnings are likely a prelude to lawsuits and enforcement actions.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. attorney's offices across the country to make enforcement a priority, and states' attorneys general are slapping companies with cease-and-desist letters demanding they stop misleading the public.

Companies and commentators making misleading health claims have been some of the most common targets, but the effort also includes rooting out alleged price-gouging on highly sought products including hand sanitizer, masks and toilet paper.

--Editing by Abbie Sarfo.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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