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A call to crack down on unproven COVID-19 treatments, cures

Sen. Chuck Schumer holds a warning letter sent

Sen. Chuck Schumer holds a warning letter sent by the Federal Trade Commission to a business making unsubstantiated claims that its product can treat or prevent COVID-19. Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on unproven coronavirus treatments and cures that the senator said are on the rise.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said dubious remedies for COVID-19 have proliferated in recent months, including vitamin C injections, a substance secreted by bees and even sound therapy treatments. The commission has sent out warning letters, but they do not go far enough, said Schumer, who called for heavy fines against sellers.

"There's been an all-out waterfall of the quack cures since March," Schumer said at a news conference in Manhattan. "Anyone who is trying to scam innocent people, sometimes desperate people, should be hit with a heavy fine so they don't do it again."

The commission did not respond to a request for comment.

The is no known vaccine or cure for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that has not stopped a range of companies from marketing products they suggest will protect people against the virus, Schumer said.

He cited as an example a Florida company that has offered to inject customers with vitamin C as "a way to increase your natural defenses against COVID-19."

Another company, based in New York, has marketed a product containing royal jelly, a substance bees produce to feed their queen and larvae. The company advised customers to "consume a tablespoon daily during the Coronavirus outbreak."

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Schumer also called out musicalmedicine.net, which sells recordings of "healing sound frequencies" for a range of ailments, including Parkinson's disease and lung cancer. 

The website has also advertised a 25-minute recording of "specifically formulated frequencies to assist in boosting your immune system and weakening the [corona]virus," according to an April 20 letter the commission sent to the website owner. 

It is illegal to "advertise that a product or service can prevent, treat, or cure human disease unless you possess competent and reliable scientific evidence" such as clinical studies, the letter read. The commission said it knew of no such studies on sound therapy as a treatment for the coronavirus.

The commission ordered the site to stop making claims about the health benefits of any purported coronavirus treatments. But Schumer said warning letters are an insufficient deterrent.

"These bad actors must be handed big fines and punished," Schumer said.

The owner of musicalmedicine.net did not respond to a request for comment.

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