Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to televangelist Jim Bakker and six companies to stop promoting and selling fraudulent products for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
The products included herbs, essential oils, tinctures and — in Bakker’s case — a dietary supplement called “Silver Solution,” which apparently consists of tiny particles of silver suspended in a liquid solution.
Not only does ingesting silver do nothing to ward off viruses, it can have serious side effects. The most common one is turning the skin a permanent bluish-gray color, but silver can also interfere with prescribed medications and, if taken in high doses, can lead to kidney damage and seizures.
“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the FDA’s letter to Bakker states. “Thus, the claims [for Silver Solution] are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. You must immediately cease making all such claims.”
More useless products
Unfortunately, Bakker’s show and the six other companies that received the FDA’s cease-and-desist letter are not the only peddlers of fraudulent products to a frightened public in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Many other bogus products are also being marketed for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Some of them are harmless, but some aren’t. All are a waste of money, however. Here are a few examples:
Vitamin and mineral supplements
Dr. Mehmet Oz was on the Today Show Monday recommending that people take vitamin and mineral supplements — particularly vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc — to boost their immune system as a preventive action against COVID-19. Although Oz acknowledged that “supplements have never been shown to beat coronavirus,” he said that taking them is one of the “tactics that will slow down the progression of viruses in general.”
Meanwhile, a Canadian naturopath clinic apologized on Monday for its bogus claim that one of its supplements could prevent COVID-19 by “boosting” the body’s immune system.
Some naturopaths have gone even further. They’re encouraging people to ingest or inject mega-doses of vitamins A, C and D to protect against COVID-19.
None of those recommendations are supported by evidence, however. Taking supplements does not improve the immune system. In fact, taking supplements will do little for your health unless you have a diagnosed vitamin or mineral deficiency.
“While it is true some parts of the [body’s immune] system require vitamins and minerals (such as vitamins A, C and zinc) to function normally, higher doses have not been shown to make the system function better,” explains dietician Cara Rosenbloom, in a recent article for the Washington Post.
But large doses of supplementary vitamins and minerals can be harmful to your health. Excessive vitamin C, for example, can damage the kidneys.
Some homeopaths are claiming their “remedies” — particularly “Arsenic album 30” — can prevent or treat COVID-19.
As I’ve written in Second Opinion before, homeopathy has been scientifically proven to be worthless for the prevention and treatment of any kind of illness, viral or not. In 2014, a major review of studies involving different homeopathic “medicines” for 68 different types of illnesses — including viral infections, such as colds and the flu — found no evidence that any of those treatments were effective.
Homeopathy is based on the totally discredited 200-year-old idea that a substance that causes symptoms can be used, in a highly diluted form, to treat those symptoms.
Reporters for the Deccan Herald, a newspaper published in India (where homeopathy is widely practiced), fact-checked the claim that Arsenicum album 30 helps to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Needless to say, they found the claim to be “false” and “dangerous.”
“As with other homeopathic drugs, Arsenicum album 30 has never been tested or proven to reduce coronavirus infections or to prevent coronavirus infections,” the reporters write.
“This misinformed advice, if followed, risks million of people’s lives during such a dangerous and contagious epidemic,” the reporters add.
One of the unsafest products being marketed for COVID-19 is chlorine dioxide, which is sold online in kits under various names, including Mineral Miracle Supplement, Miracle Mineral Solution, MMS and Water Purification Solution (WPS).
The people selling these kits claim that drinking chlorine dioxide will kill the coronavirus.
When you drink chlorine dioxide, however, you are essentially drinking bleach, as reporter Saranac Hale Spencer explains on FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center:
These kits typically include a bottle of sodium chlorite and a bottle of an “activator” such as citric acid. When the two chemicals are mixed together, they make chlorine dioxide, a common industrial bleach used in the production of paper products, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
But MMS hucksters sell the chemical solution as a cure-all for cancer, AIDS, autism and, now, the novel coronavirus.
One peddler of MMS for coronavirus is a woman who was banned in Illinois in 2015 from selling chlorine dioxide for the treatment of autism. On her website, under the headline “Good News: Coronavirus Destroyed by Chlorine Dioxide,” the woman recently wrote that “we already know CD is safe for ingestion by people, and has been used for helping the body heal from any number of health conditions including autism, malaria, herpes and AIDS.”
All of that is false. In fact, instead of healing your body, chlorine dioxide is likely to do it harm, as the FDA has warned:
Drinking any of these chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration. Some product labels claim that vomiting and diarrhea are common after ingesting the product. They even maintain that such reactions are evidence that the product is working. That claim is false.
Moreover, in general, the more concentrated the product, the more severe the reactions. The FDA has received reports of consumers who have suffered from severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products.
FMI: The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with social media platforms to help ensure that people aren’t directed to false information about COVID-19, including unproven preventions and “cures.” It has also created a website dedicated to debunking myths about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.