FDA cracks down on fake marketing claims over H1N1 products

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Personal care products

The US FDA has launched a campaign that targets a number of unapproved personal care products marketed via the internet and claiming to protect against the H1N1 flu virus.

In the midst of nation-wide epidemic that has seen a significant number of the country’s 300 million population struck down by the virus, the American authorities are concerned that panic over potential repercussions could leave people in a vulnerable position.

The FDA believes that as a result of this, a growing number of products are being falsely marketed as a preventative measures to the spread of the virus, which the organization wants to bring to the attention of the US public.

In line with the growing number of hospitalizations and resulting media coverage, the organization says that it has been keeping track of an increasing number of consumer products that are being marketed using claims that cannot be substantiated.

Body wash, hand sanitizers and shampoo

Those products include a number from the personal care category, including body washes, hand sanitizers and shampoos, together with other products including gloves, herbal extracts and diagnostic tests.

The FDA says that many of these products are being marketed through the internet, with a number of dedicated websites offering a complete range of products, claiming everything from cures to prevention and at-home diagnosis.

Many of the internet domains are registered overseas, with the FDA stating that it had specifically targeted one operator in India that was marketing a number of products claiming to tackle the virus.

String of warning letters to bogus operators

FDA research into such products resulted in a string of warning letters to the operators of offending sites to desist from using such marketing claims without FDA approval. Those warning letters were first sent in May of this year.

Since then the FDA has issued more than 75 warnings to such website operators, asking them to desist the practice of marketing in excess of 135 products that are said to have fraudulent H1N1 virus claims.

Among the products targeted with warning letters were a number of personal care products, including a shampoo said to protect against the virus and a spray claiming to leave a layer of ionic silver on the hands that can kill the virus.

Consumers urged to buy only FDA-approved products

In the meantime, the FDA is urging consumers to avoid such products, particularly ones that are marketed on the internet and to seek out FDA-approved products to help curb the effects of the virus.

“Products that are offered for sales with claims to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus must be carefully evaluated,”​ said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

“Unless these products and the claims they make are proven to be safe and effective, they will not prevent the transmission of the virus or offer effective remedies against infection.

“Furthermore, they can make matters worse by providing consumers with a false sense of protection.”

The FDA says it is now working in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission on an ongoing basis to investigate, identify and ‘take regulatory action’ against individual businesses that wrongfully market products aimed at curing, preventing or diagnosing the H1N1 virus.

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