Mar 10, 2020 - Health

Scammers are peddling fake coronavirus cures

Illustration of syringe full of glowing liquid.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Federal regulators are cracking down on scams advertising unproven coronavirus treatments, and those frauds are likely to continue.

The big picture: Disease outbreaks have long created fertile ground for fraudsters to prey on the public's fears with fake or unproven treatments. COVID-19 is no different.

Driving the news: The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters yesterday about seven fraudulent products.

  • Major retailers and some online marketplaces have already removed more than three dozen listings — for products including teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver — that falsely claim to help treat or prevent coronavirus infection.

Flashback: Scammers have run this con many times before.

  • Zika: Wristbands, patches and stickers falsely claimed they could propel the mosquito-borne virus.
  • Ebola: Before there was a vaccine, the FDA warned against online pitches that marketed snake venom, vitamin C, nanosilver and herbs as cures.
  • SARS: Promotions for air purifiers, cleaning supplies and even prevention kits were pulled off several websites in 2003.

Reality check: No drugs have been approved to treat this strain of the coronavirus.

  • Society is, at best, 12–18 months away from finding out the effectiveness of any kind of vaccine or antiviral medication, as several drugmakers like Gilead, Regeneron and Takeda run their drugs through clinical trials.

The bottom line: Listen to public health experts and doctors about how best to avoid the virus and, if necessary, how to treat it. Anybody trying to sell you a remedy over social media is most likely just trying to pick your pocket.

Go deeper: Beware the "science" behind some wellness industry's claims

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