FDA, FTC warn website marketing fraudulent H1N1 vaccine, treatments

Internet scams are taking advantage of the public’s concern over H1N1, forcing two government agencies to act.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint warning letter to a website marketing fraudulent supplements that claim to help prevent the spread of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

The warning letter, the first to be issued jointly by the agencies, advises the website’s owners of the site that they must discontinue the fraudulent marketing of their product or face legal action. The letter sent Oct. 15 further advises the site’s owners that they have 48 hours to give the agencies a plan to discontinue their fraudulent marketing. Additional legal action could include an injunction or issuance of an administrative order by the FTC or seizure of products, an injunction or criminal prosecution by the FDA.

The FDA and the FTC remind consumers to be cautious of promotions or Internet sites offering products for sale that claim to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

Fraudulent H1N1 influenza products come in many varieties, including dietary supplements, as well as products purporting to be drugs, medical devices or vaccines.

Since May, the FDA has warned more than 75 websites to stop the sale of more than 135 products with fraudulent H1N1 influenza virus claims.