The federal government has sued Utah-based Xlear, Inc., alleging that the company advertised that its nasal spray product could prevent or treat COVID-19, “without competent or reliable scientific evidence” to support the claims, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Friday.
The news was first announced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday, with the agency stating it was suing Xlear, Inc. “for violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act,” and alleging that the company “falsely pitched its saline nasal sprays as an effective way to prevent and treat COVID-19.”
“Companies can’t make unsupported health claims, no matter what form a product takes or what it supposedly prevents or treats,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
The FTC said in its lawsuit that it’s seeking monetary penalties against the company and is asking a federal court to “bar them from continuing to make such false and unsupported claims.”
Since at least March of 2020, the company has “promoted Xlear nasal sprays by falsely claiming they provide four hours of protection against infection from the coronavirus and therefore are ‘a simple, safe, and cheap option that could be an effective solution to the pandemic,” the agency wrote. The FTC stated that the company “has conducted no clinical trials to support its COVID-related claims and its advertising grossly misrepresented the purported findings and relevance of several scientific studies.”
The Department of Justice filed the suit on behalf of the FTC.
Newsweek reported in September that Xlear has been speaking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the past year, seeking emergency authorization for its nasal spray as a COVID treatment. The company submitted studies that it says demonstrate the spray’s effectiveness in combating the COVID-19. But it has not received authorization from the federal government.
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Nathan Jones, the CEO of Xlear, said the company “denies the Government’s allegations.”
“We will vigorously defend against the Government’s case, and, in doing so, defend the science against politics, paternalism, and dogmaticism,” he stated.
In the statement, Jones noted that last year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of “a clinical trial performed by researchers at Larkin Community Hospital, Florida.” He said the trial found that “people who were already sick with COVID-19, who used Xlear nasal spray—and just Xlear nasal spray—cleared the disease and tested negative in half the time of the average COVID-19 case. None of the patients developed severe cases, none required hospitalization.”
“Now the Government is suing Xlear asserting, among other things, that when Xlear tells people about scientific studies, even ones republished by the NIH, we are somehow misleading people and making false claims. It’s nonsensical,” he added.
Jones said that a “growing numbers of in vitro studies find Xlear, and its components” help fight the virus.
“In sharp contrast to trying to protect the American public, the Government is doing all in its power to stop Xlear from simply telling the public about the science. It is profoundly ironic that the Government, which now constantly ignores science for political reasons, suggests that it is taking this action against Xlear to somehow protect the people,” the statement said.
“From what is the Government protecting Americans? From the facts. From the science. From their right to know,” Jones added.