Justice department files complaint against unproven Covid treatment promoted by Steve Bannon

First scheme to be investigated under Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 19 April 2021 22:20 BST
Steve Bannon promotes zinc and vitamin D pills as ‘War Room Defence Pack’

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The Department of Justice has filed a civil complaint against the makers of an alleged treatment for Covid-19 promoted by Steve Bannon on his website.

Donald Trump’s former adviser appears in ads on his website for “The War Room Defense Pack”, which pairs vitamin D3 and zinc pills under the slogans: “You can’t fight if you’re sick!” and “The ultimate defense against sickness.”

Manufactured by Wellness Warrior, the tablets come with a free copy of War Room’s Defense Guide, emblazoned with a photo of Mr Bannon, and his War Room: Pandemic podcast logo featuring the biohazard symbol, and the Chinese flag.

Named as defendants in the justice department’s case are Eric Anthony Nepute and Quickwork LLC, doing business as Wellness Warrior. Mr Bannon is not named in the suit.

The Independent has contacted Wellness Warrior for comment and attempts were made to reach Mr Bannon.

A disclaimer at the foot of the website advertising the partnership with the podcast reads: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

This is the first enforcement action alleging violations of the Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act, passed in December 2020.

The act makes it unlawful to “engage in a deceptive act or practice” relating to the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of the coronavirus.

According to a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the defendants advertised that their vitamin D and zinc nutritional supplements could prevent or treat Covid-19 without competent or reliable scientific evidence to support their claims.

They also allegedly advertised, without scientific evidence, that their supplements were equally or more effective therapies for Covid-19 than the currently available vaccines.

The complaint seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief to stop the defendants from continuing to make deceptive advertising claims.

“The Justice Department is committed to preventing the unlawful marketing of unproven Covid-19 treatments,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

“Deceptive marketing of unproven products discourages consumers from following health and safety guidelines provided by public health officials,” he added. “The unlawful spreading of Covid-19 misinformation to sell a product will not be tolerated.”

Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter of the Federal Trade Commission, which is also joining the case, said: “The defendants’ claims that their products can stand in for approved Covid-19 vaccines are particularly troubling: we need to be doing everything we can to stop bogus health claims that endanger consumers.”

She added: “With this case, the Commission has quickly put to use its new authority to stop false marketing claims related to the pandemic.”

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