Diane C. Lade
October 18, 2009
An ultraviolet light that its sellers promise will "destroy swine flu virus." A dietary supplement claiming to be "more effective than the swine flu shot." Pills, hand sanitizers and air filters galore.
These products were among the hundreds of swine flu deterrents and cures that were advertised online this year. And their Internet purveyors were among the 80 who received warnings from the Food and Drug Administration over the past six months to stop peddling unproven or illegal treatments.
The FDA has issued an advisory, telling consumers to use "extreme care" when purchasing online products claiming to diagnose, treat or prevent the H1N1 virus. The agency and the Federal Trade Commission continue to closely watch these operations, anticipating more unauthorized items will pop up for sale.
"It's very important that consumers know these products can be deceptive and risky," said Alyson Saben, deputy director of FDA's Office of Enforcement. "They offer a false sense of protection and could delay someone from seeking treatment."
The majority of the warning letters, which tell companies to contact the FDA within 48 hours about their corrective plans, involved dietary supplements, she said.
An array of products were cited: air and water filters, inhalers, kits with biohazard coveralls and plastic gloves.
Some online pharmaceutical retailers were offering Tamiflu, one of two antiviral drugs approved by the FDA for treating swine flu. One, which came in an envelope postmarked from India, consisted of two white tablets found to contain talc and acetaminophen but no oseltamivir, the active ingredient in Tamiflu, the FDA said.
See the warnings at www.fda.gov. Click on "warning letters."
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