The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit on October 28, 2021, against a dental manufacturer, Xlear, Inc., saying the company “falsely pitched its saline nasal sprays as an effective way to prevent and treat COVID-19.”
The federal agency said Xlear violated the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act with its claims about the nasal sprays. The legislation was enacted by Congress in December 2020, making it unlawful for a company to initiate a “deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19.”
In July 2020, the FTC submitted a warning letter to Xlear. The agency took exception to the company quoting a Utah State University study that the nasal sprays reduced the coronavirus to an “undetectable amount.” A YouTube video quoted a University of North Carolina study that nasal sprays “wash” the nose where “90% of viral load” is located. In addition, several articles referred to the “craziness” of treating the virus through just the methods advocated by public health experts.
Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a press statement, “Companies can’t make unsupported health claims, no matter what form a product takes or what it supposedly prevents or treats. That’s the lesson of this case and many others like it, and it’s why people should continue to rely on medical professionals over ads.”
The Utah-based Xlear prominently posted a link on its website to studies that the company said supported the efficacy of Xlear Sinus Care. In addition, the website linked to an online petition seeking health professionals to request guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The petition wants the CDC to recommend “Americans to use nasal sprays to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and doctors to use them in treating COVID-19 patients.”
As of October 30, the petition claimed 5,108 signatures out of the required 7,500. Dental professionals were among the company’s supporters, according to a link provided on Facebook.
Legally, the lawsuit seeks the United States District Court of Utah to “impose monetary penalties on the defendants and bar them from continuing to make such false and unsupported claims.” The lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice, said, “Despite this lack of evidence, defendants have made numerous claims that explicitly or implicitly state that daily use of Xlear nasal spray is effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.”
In addition, the lawsuit claimed Xlear “made numerous deceptive statements regarding the results of scientific studies” and gave the “impression that there is evidence to support their claims about Xlear nasal spray when no such competent, reliable scientific evidence exist.”
The FTC claimed Xlear initially agreed to remove the claims from its website but instead persisted with its marketing approach for Xlear Sinus Care.