As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the United States, a similar pandemic appears to be following in its shadows. This pandemic is one of peddled conspiracy theories, unproven products and an ever surging litany of dangerous disinformation infecting homes the world over.
On Tuesday March 17, North Dakota's District 36 Rep. Luke Simons posted a product on his social media account that he suggested treats COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
The Facebook post from Simons, a Republican who ranches near Dickinson, read, "All joking aside, this virus that is going around is very treatable. This book was written I believe 20 years ago and address the coronavirus specifically. Please share so this gets to the right people my doctor shared this with me."
Included in the post was an image about a product called VIRA-Pel made by Weed Botanicals Inc., which claims the product is effective against respiratory viruses including coronaviruses.
Weed Botanical Co. is a family-owned and operated wholesale medicinal herb company. A disclaimer on the company's website states that "It is not intended to replace qualified medical care. Consult your doctor if you are considering supplementing with our herbal extracts. Please note that the information provided here has not been evaluated by the FDA. Herbs and plant nutrients are classified as dietary supplements and are not approved as medicine."
Rob Keller, public information officer for the Joint Information Center, cautioned against products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"We're starting to see things come up trying to get you to buy into it because it's a proven cure for coronavirus or COVID-19. We just caution people, buyers beware ... At this time, people are concerned about the future and sometimes there are those people out there that will prey on that just like they prey on the elderly because they have an emotional connection to it ... Don't let emotions drive the decision to purchase something."
Multiple attempts were made to reach Simons for comment, but were unsuccessful by the time of this article's publication.
Simons is not the first person to share treatments for the coronavirus that have not been approved by the FDA.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have been sending warning letters to companies that have made unapproved claims about the coronavirus and their products' ability to treat it.
New York's attorney general, Letitia James, sent a cease-and-desist letter to radio show host Alex Jones for marketing and selling products as a treatment or cure for the coronavirus. Televangelist Jim Bakker was sued by the state of Missouri for selling Silver Solution as a treatment for COVID-19.
There are currently no approved treatments for the coronavirus, although the FDA is exploring possible treatment options.
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