FTC Prohibits Medical Director of $23,000 COVID-19 ‘Treatment’ Plan From Making False Health Claims

Advertising Law

The medical director of Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that he took part in deceptively advertising a $23,000 treatment plan as a scientifically proven way to treat COVID-19.

Under the proposed order, Dr. Stephen Meis will be prohibited from making similar unsupported health claims in the future and will pay $103,420 to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

According to the FTC’s complaint, filed in July 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Golden Sunrise started marketing its Emergency D-Virus plan as a treatment for COVID-19 in March 2020. The FTC alleged that Golden Sunrise falsely claimed the company’s supplements—ImunStem, Aktiffvate and AnterFeerons—were “uniquely qualified to treat and modify the course of the Coronavirus epidemic in CHINA and other countries,” and that users could expect the “disappearance of viral symptoms within two to four days.” The advertising appeared on billboards, websites and social media.

The defendants also promoted and sold a variety of dietary supplements as treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease and many other serious health conditions and diseases. Some of the defendants’ treatments cost as much as $170,000 to $200,000. In reality, according to the FTC, they consisted mainly of various herbs and spices and the health claims were unsubstantiated.

One ad for the company’s supplements cited “Stephen R. Meis, M.D., Board Certified” saying, “With increased use of one of the supplements included in the Emergency D-Virus treatment plan, disappearance of viral symptoms is expected within two (2) to four (4) days,” and that the recommended dietary supplements “are available now and once they are started, they will help alleviate the people immediately [sic] with the acute illness of the Coronavirus.”

The proposed order settling the FTC’s complaint prohibits Meis from making health-related product misrepresentations in the future, requires him to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support any claims he makes, and prohibits him from misrepresenting the results of any tests, studies or other research. It also bars him from falsely stating that a product has Food and Drug Administration approval when it does not. In addition, the order imposes a judgment of $103,420 against Meis, payable to the FTC, which can be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

The proposed order has been signed by the judge. Litigation continues against defendants Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical, Inc., and Huu Tieu.

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