KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Federal Trade Commission is calling out three local wellness clinics over claims about COVID-19 treatments.
The FTC said the clinics advertised specific IV treatments online with unproven claims, but all three clinics said that wasn’t their intent.
The FTC’s Southwest Region office told Epigenics Healing Center, Revive & Rally Health Lounge and McDonagh Medical Center to stop.
The letters to all three state it is unlawful to advertise treatments that have no known studies on the treatments and if they are effective with COVID-19.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease doctor with the University of Kansas Health System, said the only known way to prevent COVID-19 is by washing your hands, not touching your face and not going out when you’re sick
“There is no approved and really nothing that has been proven to prevent or to treat coronavirus infection,” Hawkinson said.
The treatments listed in the letters vary from high doses of vitamin C IV infusions, ultraviolet blood therapy and hyperbaric oxygen.
Dr. Jay Goodbinder practices naturopathic medicine. He posts frequently on his business Facebook page about the pandemic and different studies, both peer-reviewed and not, that discuss COVID-19 and possibilities to treat them. He also offers high dose vitamin C IV treatments.
The Federal Trade Commission noted several posts that Goodbinder has since taken down.
He is quoted as saying “IV vitamin C in high doses are [sic] knocking covid 19 out in wuhan China. Come get yours at the Epigenetics Healing Center asap,” in a post from March 17.
In another, they quote him as saying, “Dr. Enqiang Mao, chief of emergency medicine at Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai, stated that his group treated ~50 moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 infection with high dose intravenous vitamin C. ‘The IVC dosing was for 7-10 days, with 10,000 mg for moderate cases and 20,000 mg for more severe cases. ‘All patients who received intravenous vitamin C improved, and there was no mortality.”
Goodbinder said the comments were taken out of context.
“That was an unfortunate use of words. I mean I was just, I was paraphrasing what the paper said. I would, didn’t just say that,” Goodbinder said. “I was saying this is what’s happening in Wuhan, China. This is the work they use.”
He said he hasn’t treated any patient who has COVID-19 and believes vitamin C is not a preventative measure for the virus, but a general health boost you can take to assist your immune system.
He said he doesn’t believe vitamin C can cure the coronavirus.
“That’s not at all what I’m trying to say,” Goodbinder said. “I don’t think I ever said that. I think what I’m trying to say is vitamin C can boost your immune system and help you to stay healthy.”
Dr. Rahul Kapur owns the Revive & Rally Health Lounge in KCMO. He’s also a doctor at North Kansas City Hospital and currently treating patients with COVID-19.
When he received the letter from the FTC, he said he understood why he got it, but it was a misunderstanding.
“Unfortunately, the wording sort of looked like I was saying I had the treatment for COVID-19 or that vitamins treat COVID-19. That was not the intent of the blog at all,” Kapur said. “
But you know, it’s put together by by somebody who runs my website, not medical, and I refer to a study that is being done in China, about IV vitamin C, but it’s not peer-reviewed.”
Kapur said the letter refers to a blog post on the Revive & Rally website that has since been taken down.
However, on the business’ Facebook page and his personal Twitter account at the time of this article, there were still several posts regarding high-dose vitamin C IV treatments.
One post says, “Are you worried about the coronavirus? There is so much misinformation out there, we are sharing facts.” “We know high doses of vitamin C given by IV over one hour will boost your immunity. We recommend our high-dose vitamin C IV bag.”
“We offer no treatment for COVID-19,” Kapur said. “These are just general measures that I think improve metabolic health of everybody. And I think everyone would benefit from these measures. I’ve seen better outcomes and people who have optimal vitamin levels and optimal hormone levels in the long run.”
KU Health System’s Hawkinson said vitamins are generally good, but vitamin C IV treatments may not be needed to boost your immune system. Adding it into your diet should be enough.
“Do we know that having adequate amounts of these vitamins in your body is healthy? Absolutely,” Hawkinson said. “But there are limits. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. Once your body has enough of that, all you do is urinate it out anyway, so you’re not really storing it up.”
McDonagh Medical Centers in Gladstone also received a letter from the FTC. They quote several posts made to the medical center’s Facebook page that have now been edited.
The letter says their treatment claims go beyond IV therapy, but offer ozone therapy, ultraviolet blood therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
One post on their Facebook page read: “Exciting news coming out of China! IV ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is being studied in Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital in a prospective study on COVID patients. The experimental group will receive 24 grams of vitamin C IV in divided doses daily over 7 days.
“Fred Klenner, MD was not shy about using 40-50 grams/day or more, but this is significantly more than NY hospitals have been using during this pandemic (1.5 grams IV 3 times daily). Still, this is encouraging news!… McDonagh Medical Center offers Vitamin C IV, among many other modalities. Call or e-mail to ask questions or set up an appointment!”
Another stated: “COVID-19 update: McDonagh Medical Center offers many anti-viral modalities including IV ozone therapy, ultraviolet blood therapy, high dose IV vitamin C, and hyperbaric oxygen. Dr Wennerstrom was trained by Robert Rowen, MD in ozone therapies, the author of this 2 min video and of multiple ozone specific journal publications.”
The medical center is headed by Dr. Carey Wennerstrom. She works as a physician at the center and with the United States Air Force National Guard in St. Joseph.
The letter refers to statements that she was trained by Dr. Robert Rowen, and it quotes Wennerstrom referring readers to a YouTube video where he states, “ozone will oxidize it [COVID-19] and render it inactive.”
Wennerstrom declined a request for an interview, but did provide a statement in regards to the FTC document:
“I am in FTC compliance. My clinic is on the frontlines and I have experience treating COVID patients. I look forward to treating more as I am here for the patients. I have even treated military members for free. The day after the warning letter was issued, and following a few minor edits to my social media posts, the FTC notified me I am in compliance.
“As a dually board certified physician in family and integrative medicine, I have helped many patients. Some of those patients have COVID-19. I am also a member of the USAF Guard and have treated military members for free in recent weeks. I have my patients’ best interest at heart and look forward to the opportunity to treat more. My clinic is open 6 days per week to better accommodate patients’ schedules.”
Hawkinson said while some treatments may seem different or unique, there’s a reason they may not be widely adopted at large hospitals.
“People really harp on Big Pharma or the pharmaceutical industry because they want to make money,” Hawkinson said.
“But if you look at it from the flip side, if these things really worked, do you not think that big pharma or the pharmaceutical companies would be making them and patenting them because they can make money.”
Hawkinson said when people are worried about contracting a virus or any ailment, they will do things to help prevent it.
He said it’s best to make sure the treatment you’re seeking does what is advertised and won’t harm you.
“It’s really important to note that we all want a treatment or a preventive measure, but unfortunately right now, there’s really nothing that has been proven to do that,” Hawkinson said. “In fact, some of these even common household or over-the-counter drugs or medications or supplements can actually be harmful.”
All three owners said they have already complied with the Federal Trade Commission and either deleted or edited the wording they were warned about.