FTC Order Will Ban California-based Company from COVID-19 Advertising Claims

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The Federal Trade Commission today announced a proposed settlement that would ban California-based Precision Patient Outcomes, Inc. (PPO) and the company’s CEO Margrett Priest Lewis from claiming that dietary supplements can treat, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19.

“The order announced today bans PPO and its owner from making COVID-related health claims and unsubstantiated health claims generally” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It is a reminder to the marketplace that competent and reliable scientific evidence is compulsory when advertising health-related claims.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants began advertising COVID Resist on the company’s website and social media pages during the pandemic with deceptive claims that the product could treat, prevent, or mitigate COVID-19.

Despite learning about the Commission’s enforcement action under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act against a company making similar claims about the science and efficacy of its products, the defendants only changed the name of the product from COVID Resist to VIRUS Resist and continued to deceptively advertise it as an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Based on this conduct, the FTC alleged that the defendants violated the FTC Act by: 1) making unsubstantiated efficacy claims for their product and 2) falsely claiming to have scientific evidence to support their health claims. 

The proposed order settling the complaint addresses each of the defendants’ alleged violations of the FTC Act. First, it bans Precision Patient Outcomes and Lewis from making any claims that any product prevents or reduces the likelihood of infection with, or transmission of, the COVID-19 virus; that any product reduces the severity or duration of COVID-19; or otherwise cures, mitigates, or treats COVID-19, unless the FDA has approved the claim. 

As in other Commission cases involving false or deceptive COVID-19 “treatments” or “cures,” the order bans the defendants from representing that any drug, food, or dietary supplement cures, mitigates or treats any disease unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims made. The order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the health benefits or efficacy of any drug, food, or dietary supplement or the results of any tests or studies. 

Finally, the order requires the defendants to possess and preserve all scientific evidence used to support the health claims made for products they sell. They also must notify customers and resellers about the FTC’s lawsuit.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed order was 3-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The lead staff attorney on this matter was Abdiel T. Lewis of the FTC’s Western Region San Francisco

Official news published at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2024/02/ftc-order-will-ban-california-based-company-covid-19-advertising-claims

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