FBI Targets Unapproved Treatments Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the FBI and DOJ have begun enforcement efforts against COVID-19 "schemes". In addition, the Trump administration and DOJ have established a legal framework for federal prosecutors to target suspected holders and price gouging. On April 22, 2020 the DOJ announced a cooperative effort between law enforcement and private sector companies, including internet domain providers, has disrupted hundreds of domains used to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is certainly true that in the wake of a natural disaster, profiteering fraudsters will attempt to exploit the vulnerable, it is also true that DOJ enforcement efforts may unfairly target those offering assistance. For instance, the DOJ secured a permanent injunction against a provider from offering "ozone therapy" from offering unproven treatments for coronavirus. This is a similar therapy ostensibly touted by President Trump during a COVID-19 press conference when he discussed "disinfecting" the body to prevent and treat COVID-19. Federal prosecutors in Detroit also targeted a Shelby Township clinic offering IV infusion treatments aimed at boosting the immune system. Presently, Attorney General William Barr has directed all 94 United States Attorneys to aggressively crack down on criminal activities meant to exploit the pandemic. However, it appears that in an effort to appear "tough on COVID-19 crime" federal prosecutors have begun targeting alternative treatments routinely used by those who wish to have an alternative to modern healthcare. Touting alternative medicine is not yet criminalized by federal statutes. In fact, the United States Government has no authority to prosecute non-FDA regulated treatments such as vitamins and dietary supplements. Nor does the FDA have authority to prosecute providers for the use of FDA approved drugs that are used "off label". Federal prosecutors appear to be using their expansive jurisdiction and statutory authority granted by often vague statutes as a vehicle for criminalizing the practice of alternative medicine. This sets a very poor precedent in the United States where the use of alternative has lead to the advancement in the practice of medicine. It is certainly true that every approved treatment was once an unapproved treatment.

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