Supplement Marketer Agrees to Preliminary Order Barring Him from Claiming Product Can Treat or Prevent COVID-19

In response to a Federal Trade Commission complaint, a California-based marketer of a supplement consisting mainly of Vitamin C and herbal extracts has agreed to a preliminary order barring him from claiming that it is effective at treating, preventing, or reducing the risk of COVID-19.

According to the FTC’s federal district court complaint, since at least December 2018, through Whole Leaf Organics, Michael Ching has advertised and sold Thrive online, with a 50-capsule bottle selling for $36.99.

The federal court complaint states that beginning in or around March 2020 Mr. Ching started to market Thrive as an “antiviral wellness booster” that treats, prevents, or reduces the risk of COVID-19. The FTC also alleges that Mr. Ching falsely represents that these benefits of Thrive are clinically proven; however, there is no scientific evidence that Thrive or any of its ingredients can treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of COVID-19.

The complaint also alleges that, since at least December 2018, Mr. Ching has used his Whole Leaf Organics website to advertise and sell three CBD-containing products, CBD-EX, CBD-RX, and CBD-Max.

According to the FTC, the first is an ingestible capsule consisting mainly of a combination of cannabidiol and herbal extracts. CBD-RX and CBD-Max are oils composed primarily of CBD and hemp extract. Thirty capsules of CBD-EX retail for $39.99 and CBD-RX and CBD-Max sell for between $75 and $125 per bottle.

The FTC alleges that Mr. Ching advertises all three CBD products as effective cancer treatments. According to the FTC’s complaint, however, Mr. Ching does not have the scientific evidence to back up the cancer-treatment claims, and therefore the advertisements are purportedly false or deceptive.

The matter is the latest in a slew of efforts by regulatory agencies to protect consumers during the pandemic.

Pending the resolution of a parallel administrative case, the proposed preliminary order also bars Mr. Ching, doing business as Whole Leaf Organics, from claiming that three CBD-based products he sells are effective cancer treatments.

“There’s no proof that any product will prevent or treat COVID-19 or that any CBD product will treat cancer,” said FTC lawyer and Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith.

Companies making these claims can look forward to having to consult with an FTC defense attorney and to a similar FTC enforcement lawsuit.

The Federal Trade Commission also has approved the issuance of an administrative complaint containing the same allegations about the health claims Mr. Ching made for Thrive and the CBD-based products. In the administrative case, the FTC is seeking an order permanently halting the allegedly deceptive advertising for Thrive, CBD-EX, CBD-RX, and CBD-Max.

Richard B. Newman is an FTC advertising compliance and defense attorney at Hinch Newman LLP. Follow him on Twitter @FTC defense lawyer.

Informational purposes only. Not legal advice. May be considered attorney advertising.