Consumer Health Digest #20-11

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 22, 2020

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.

FTC warns about coronavirus scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has offered these tips to keep coronavirus scammers at bay:

[Tressler C. Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines. FTC. Feb 10, 2020] Other coronavirus scams noted by the FTC include failure to deliver in-demand products such as cleaning supplies; a fake email containing the World Health Organization's logo; and robocalls to pitch scam treatments. [Tressler C. FTC: coronavirus scams, part 2. FTC. March 19, 2020] Similar scams are targeting Canadians. [Brockbank N. Here's what you need to know about the COVID-19 scams popping up in Canada. CBC News. March 19, 2020]

Bogus coronavirus vaccine kit offer stopped. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman has issued a temporary restraining order requiring the registrar of the Web site "" to shut it down. The order is in response to a civil complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) which alleges that the site operators engaged in a wire fraud scheme to profit from the widespread fear of COVID-19. The site stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) was giving away free vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping charge of $4.95. However, no such kits existed, and the complaint noted that giving their credit card information would also make buyers vulnerable to identity theft. [Justice Department files its first enforcement action against COVID-19 fraud. USDOJ news release. March 22, 2020] The site is no longer posted. The DOJ advises consumers to ignore offers for COVID-19 prevention or treatment that come through email, an online ad, or other unsolicited sales pitch, because if the methodology is legitimate you'll hear about it first through reputable news or medical channels.

Another COVID-19 fact-checking site available. Snopes has organized its COVID-19 fact-checking reports by these categories:

[Echter B. The coronavirus collection: Fact-checking COVID-19. Snopes. Feb 28, 2020]

Lupus, arthritis patients face shortages of drugs hyped for COVID-19. Lupus and arthritis patients are struggling to obtain their full prescriptions of chloroquine (Aralen) or the safer, more widely used variant hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) due to the increasing demand for the drugs for treating patients with coronavirus disease. [Zoellner D. Coronavirus: Lupus sufferers facing drug shortage after spike in prescriptions for potential Covid-19 treatments. Independent. March 21, 2020] The use of these drugs in coronavirus disease treatment is based on favorable, but only preliminary clinical evidence. [Irfan U. What you need to know about hydroxychloroquine, Trump's new favorite treatment for Covid-19. Vox. March 20, 2020] According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists: (a) chloroquine, which is made by one manufacturer in the United States has been in shortage since March 9th, and (b) four of eight U.S. suppliers of hydroxychloroquine also have shortages. [Dunn A. Elon Musk and Trump are touting a 1940s malaria pill as a potential coronavirus treatment. But supplies are already running short as prescriptions spike. Business Insider. March 20, 2020] The Lupus Association of America, the Arthritis Foundation, and 94 other national patient organizations have sent a letter to Congressional leaders calling for a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes ensuring that people with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis retain access to hydroxychloroquine.

British Columbia regulators warn chiropractors and naturopaths about COVID-19 claims. British Columbia's chiropractic and naturopathic regulatory bodies have posted public notices and warned their respective practitioners to stop suggesting that their supplements or other treatments can protect against COVID-19 infections by "boosting the immune system." According to press reports:

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This page was posted on March 22,, 2020.