The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued a wellness company over unsanctioned medical claims it was making about a line of CBD products and supplements.

No longer satisfied with merely sending out warning letters, the agency seems to be taking more aggressive steps to combat the scourge of companies marketing products as treatment options for conditions such as cancer and COVID-19 without supporting scientific evidence.

The California-based Whole Leafs Organic allegedly did both, according to a complaint filed in a federal district court. In advertising, it claimed that its “Thrive” nutritional supplement consisting largely of vitamin C could treat or reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, FTC said. It also sold three types of CBD products that the company said could target and eliminate cancer cells.

Marc Ching, owner of Whole Leafs Organic, agreed to a preliminary injunction order earlier this week, barring his company from making claims that the products can treat either COVID-19 or cancer. He previously received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over his CBD products. The new agreement is not an admission of guilt in the matter, and a hearing for the case is set for January 2021.

FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith said in a press release on Tuesday that there’s “no proof that any product will prevent or treat COVID-19 or that any CBD product will treat cancer.”

“Let’s be clear: companies making these claims can look forward to an FTC lawsuit like this one.”

In addition to the complaint filed in federal court, FTC also unanimously approved a parallel administrative complaint asserting the same claims.

This action represents a notable departure from previous enforcement activity within FTC or FDA, which have both simply sent warning letters to various businesses that market products as effective treatment options for coronavirus and other conditions. A former NFL player received one of those letters earlier this month over claims that his company’s CBD products could prevent or cure the virus.

In the latest filing, first reported by Harris Bricken, FTC said Whole Leafs Organic claims in advertising “that Thrive treats, prevents or reduces the risk of COVID-19, and that CBD-EX, CBD-RX, and CBDMax treat cancer. In numerous instances, Defendant also has claimed in advertising that the efficacy of Thrive, CBD-EX, CBDRX, and CBD-Max for the advertised purposes is scientifically or clinically proven.”

“There is good cause to believe that immediate and irreparable harm will result from Defendant’s ongoing violations of [federal statute] unless Defendant is restrained and enjoined by order of the Court,” it states.

Here are some examples of the advertising at issue, according to FTC: 

“The most effective innovation in cancer and immune related proactive supplement support in the past ten years. CBD-EX combines the best in cancer fighting elements, into one simple capsule.”

“Containing clinically tested ingredients, CBD-EX is a dynamic force in anti inflammation protocols, targeting manipulated cells while working to protect healthy ones. Formulated containing Coriolus Versicolor Mushroom, CBD-EX seeks to inhibit the spread of mutated malignant cells, directly attacking the problem.”

“Our CBD-EX formulation is specifically created to combat cancer and de-manipulate active cells. Infused with Curcumin, our CBD-EX formulation reduces cell inflammation, while at the same time targeting mutated nuclei.”

In a blog post on Tuesday, FTC said those claims “were sure to attract the interest of cancer patients desperate for a treatment, but Whole Leaf Organics also caught the attention of another group,” referencing FDA and its 2019 letter. “Months later and the company was still making those representations on its website.”

“Unproven claims about COVID-19 and cancer can cost lives,” the post states. “Even at this early stage, the filing of this case demonstrates the FTC’s unwavering commitment to protecting Americans from products falsely advertised to prevent or treat serious diseases.”

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Photo courtesy of Evan Johnson.

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