FDA Strenghtens Efforts Against Online Flu Fraud

By October 19, 2009

The FDA is strengthening its efforts to catch online scammers who purport to sell swine flu vaccines. The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent last week the first joint-agency warning letter to Weil Lifestyle LLC, ordering the company to cease marketing fraudulent supplements that it claims prevent H1N1. Earlier this month, the FDA and the World Health Organization warned consumers against internet pharmacies purporting to sell Tamiflu, the vaccine released at the beginning of October. In 390 of the 400 cases surveyed, the online pharmacies were not certified to sell Tamiflu online.

Since May, the FDA has warned over 75 websites to stop the sales of more than 135 products which that agency deems to have “fraudulent H1N1 influenza virus claims.”

"Products that are offered for sale with claims to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus must be carefully evaluated," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

"Unless these products are proven to be safe and effective for the claims that are made, it is not known whether they will 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."

Companies who do not comply with the FDA and FTC face injunction, seizure of products or possible criminal prosecution.

The FDA this week also launched an embeddable widget that consumers can use to find and report fraudulent H1N1 products.

"The FDA continues to consider the sale and promotion of fraudulent H1N1 influenza products to be a possible threat to the public health and in violation of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act," said Michael Chappell, acting FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

"The FDA has an aggressive surveillance program to detect fraudulent H1N1-related products and will take prompt action to stop the marketing of fraudulent H1N1 influenza products and will hold those who are responsible for doing so accountable," Chappell said.

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