ATLANTA — Channel 2 investigates the federal government cracking down on people marketing COVID-19 cures through misleading labels and unapproved drugs over the past year. Some of the latest targets have been companies in metro Atlanta.
“Hey guys, so, I got COVID-19,” said Dr. David Jockers, a Cobb County based chiropractor and nutritionist in a YouTube video recorded in February. He talked about his own COVID-19 symptoms and how he got over the virus making sure to emphasize this: “I’m not saying that what I chose to do is a cure for COVID-19. I don’t think there’s a full-on cure,” said Dr. Jockers.
Dr. Jockers is among a handful of metro Atlanta business owners who have been warned or sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration against peddling their products as COVID-19 cures. In the early stages of the pandemic, Dr. Jockers received a warning letter regarding unapproved and misbranded products related to COVID-19. Along with the Federal Trade Commission, the FDA said it had reviewed Dr. Jockers’ website, social media and the label on his products including Super C, Vitamin D, and Immunostrong Berry Liquid that declared they were “intended to mitigate, prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 in people.”
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But Dr. Jockers recently described the mandate on misguidance as a muzzle. “Many of you probably want to know what products I took, things like that, but due to the FDA, they weren’t happy with me when I wrote certain articles about prevention steps and strategies to support your immune system. So, I’ve been told not, not to talk about any sort of products,” said Dr. Jockers in the video.
In Alpharetta, there was a full-blown federal case. A January consent decree and injunction banned the owner of Fusion Health and Vitality, LLC and Fusion Ionz, LLC which operate as Pharm Origins against marketing, labeling or selling unapproved dietary supplements.
Months earlier, the owner Matthew Ryncarz pleaded guilty to separate criminal charges that Fusion Health and Vitality as Pharm Origins sold an Immune Shot in southern Georgia and outside of the state tarting people over 50 falsely promising to lower their risk of catching COVID-19 by almost 50 percent. The company marketed with catch phrases like “Is your life worth $19? Seriously, is it?”
“I think that’s what I was googling when I first found them. I was looking for natural vitamins and they’re a natural health company so, all of their stuff is great,” said Jennifer Reyes a Pharm Origins customer.
She told Channel 2 she trusts their guidance and never saw marketing tied to cures. “No, that was never mentioned it was all about a healthier lifestyle. You know they would talk about becoming healthier, and it would help your immune system, but they never mentioned COVID,” said Reyes.
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After the interview, she sent us photos of the products she bought from the company in early February. We spotted one the company was instructed to stop labeling as a COVID-19 cure, a vitamin D Immune Shot. Reyes said she was never under the impression it was supposed to be anything other than a natural supplement.
In March, a Channel 2 producer purchased products by Dr. Jockers and Peterson Research Laboratories in Morrow flagged by the FDA for misrepresentation. They no longer have labels tied to COVID-19 cures.
We were unable to buy the Pharm Origins products. Their website said they are under recall.
Channel 2 also reached out to all of the companies weeks ago by phone and email. Ryncarz’s companies told our producer to email for a response two weeks ago, but none came.
Following the criminal case last year, Ryncarz told Medpage Today the company is “thankful we are able to put this behind us, comply with current laws and continue to provide products and services to our customer base.” He added that his advertising claims were “not meant to refer to the company’s products, rather emerging and copious scientific data regarding vitamin D and COVID-19.”
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The head of Peterson Research Laboratories sent us a statement that reads:
“We here at Peterson Research Laboratories do not make any claims that our products can cure or lead to the prevention of COVID-19. To our knowledge COVID-19 is a relatively new virus and not enough research has been done to determine what or if any type of substance or product can stop the disease. Our product is 100% Colloidal Silver and any claims are based on the research done by many companies, institutions and scientists going back decades that have gotten great results from using Colloidal Silver in the fight of many diseases like Herpes and Aids.”
Dr. Jockers who has only received an FDA warning letter declined to talk to us citing a family matter.
“I am a strong proponent of supplements. However, I’m also a science guy as a pharmacist, and I, you know, I believe in the science of things, okay. So, when companies make claims that they should not be making that decision bothers me a great deal,” said Ira Katz the longtime pharmacist at Little Five Points Pharmacy.
“People can put anything they want on the internet,” said Katz. “Before anybody, okay, should take any, discuss it with your doctor or with your pharmacist, okay. You could check it out whether it’s FDA approved or not,” said Katz.