The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Monday that it sent warning letters to seven companies for selling unapproved drugs. The FDA says these products "pose significant risks to patient health" as they claim to either treat or prevent COVID-19.
However, the FDA is ready to go beyond issuing warning letters. FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in the release, "What we don't need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We're prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam." One recipient of a warning letter is televangelist Jim Bakker who is selling a silver solution, purporting to be a treatment for coronavirus.
As of its update on March 8, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there are more than 105,000 cases of COVID-19 around the globe. The risk assessment remains "very high" as the disease has spread to dozens of countries, sending not just consumers but investors into a panic. The S&P 500 was down more than 11% heading into trading on Monday, triggering the employment of circuit breakers to halt trading temporarily.
Gilead continues to test remdesivir
Currently, there's no cure or approved treatment for COVID-19. However, Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) remdesivir drug has shown signs of progress and it could aid in treating patients with the disease. On Feb. 26, the company announced it had begun two phase 3 studies on remdesivir that will test the drug's safety and effectiveness on approximately 1,000 patients.
Other healthcare stocks are trying to develop drugs for COVID-19 but Gilead's remdesivir drug has been one singled out by the WHO as showing the most potential.