NY AG Issues Notices Targeting Purported Coronavirus Cures

By Hailey Konnath
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Law360 (March 11, 2020, 10:02 PM EDT) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday ordered a company and an Oklahoma doctor to immediately stop pushing products marketed as treatments or cures for COVID-19, noting that health officials haven't yet approved a vaccine to prevent or cure the coronavirus disease.

According to one of the cease-and-desist notices, The Silver Edge Co. is claiming its Micro-Particle Colloidal Silver Generator "beats coronavirus" and that there's "clinical documentation" backing the assertion.

Meanwhile, Sherrill Sellman, a self-described naturopathic doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been marketing colloidal silver products as a cure for the virus and selling them on her website and on "The Jim Bakker Show," a religious television show, James said in the other notice.

The colloidal silver generator, which costs almost $250, was sold out as of Wednesday, an indication that many people may believe the company's "deceptive marketing," James said.

There is not yet a cure for the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. The WHO on Wednesday declared the disease a global pandemic.

James said in a statement Wednesday that falsely marketing products as a treatment for a serious disease and charging steep prices "is deeply unethical and unlawful."

"We will continue to go after any company that attempts to deceive the public, especially during this public health crisis," she said.

Since the new coronavirus first surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December, the respiratory illness has spread across the globe, with more than 118,000 cases reported in 114 countries, according to the WHO. More than 4,200 people have died and thousands of others haven't yet recovered, the WHO said Wednesday.

Beyond the issues around their advertising, both Silver Edge and Sellman are using colloidal silver, which is potentially dangerous, as the main ingredient in their products, James said Wednesday. She pointed to guidance from the FDA, which has warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective in treating any disease or condition.

The attorney general's office also ordered Sellman to add a disclaimer to her website making it clear that the products haven't yet been evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to "diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

Last week, James ordered "The Jim Bakker Show" to stop marketing Sellman's products as a cure for coronavirus after the show broadcast claims they were "proven to treat strains of the virus," according to Wednesday's statement.

And on Tuesday, she ordered two New York City merchants to stop charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays. According to James' office, Ace Hardware in Midtown Manhattan was charging customers nearly $80 for 1,200 milliliter of hand sanitizer, while City Fresh Market in Astoria, Queens, was charging almost $15 for a 19-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray.

"While there remains no cause for widespread panic, some people are looking to prey on others' anxiety and line their own pockets," James said Tuesday.

Representatives for Silver Edge and Sellman didn't immediately return requests for comment late Wednesday.

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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

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