Dietary Supplements, Compliance, and COVID-19

Dietary Supplements, Compliance, and COVID-19

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Written by: Joel Villareal

Dietary supplements and COVID-19? That is an interesting concept in the world today. With the current worldwide situation surrounding the pandemic, consumers alike are looking at various options to fight off a novel coronavirus, now named as COVID-19. It is a fact that the dietary supplement business is a billion-dollar industry and dietary supplements products have been used for decades. Dietary supplement products are used to supplement one’s diet. But, does it really treat or prevent consumers from COVID-19? Here is a little hint, there is no dietary supplement product (not that I know of) in the market that can fight off COVID-19.

There are dietary supplement products out in the market that claim to treat COVID-19. Unless there are studies to prove that those products can cure COVID-19 and have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the products are considered misbranded. In fact, if there was a product out there that did cure COVID-19, then it would be considered as a drug, which is regulated under a different set of regulations. It is an unfortunate situation where dietary supplement companies try to make claims to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19 and make money off a pandemic. However, there is no problem with that as long as the company is in full compliance with the regulations. It is also unfortunate that some consumers do purchase these products without consultation with their primary care physician or doing further research. In all aspects, some dietary supplement companies are probably unaware that there are regulations in place for determining what certain claims are allowed to be labeled and marketed on their dietary supplement products. It is always the responsibility of all dietary supplement companies that their claims are not misleading.

There is regulatory scrutiny on dietary supplement products when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially if the product is misbranded. Currently, since the start of the pandemic, there are over fifty warning letters issued by the FDA to companies that try to market products that either mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. It is the responsibility of the FDA to take the appropriate action if the product has been marketed that could potentially harm the consumers. All of these warning letters were issued because the companies claimed that their products can treat and prevent COVID-19. A good majority of the warning letters were issued to dietary supplement companies that marketed products such as colloidal silver, herbal products, tinctures, and vitamins. Normally, a company is given 15 days to respond to the warning letter. However, in this unique situation due to the pandemic, companies are given 48 hours to respond. As a result, it appears that most of the companies that were issued warning letters no longer markets the questionable product as a product that would prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. FDA does not play games with companies that take advantage of a vulnerable situation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, where the outcome of the situation could be deadly.

Overall, compliance with all applicable dietary supplement regulations is always key when marketing dietary supplements during a pandemic.