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FTC warns La Jolla company about COVID-19 treatment claim

Koi Wellbeing received a warning letter dated June 3 from the Federal Trade Commission.
Koi Wellbeing, at 5632 La Jolla Blvd., received a letter dated June 3 from the Federal Trade Commission saying the FTC had determined that it was “unlawfully advertising that certain services and products prevent or treat” COVID-19.
( File)

A La Jolla health service company was among 30 companies nationwide that recently received letters from the Federal Trade Commission telling them to cease claims about some of their products’ and services’ abilities to prevent or treat COVID-19.

The letters were sent as part of the FTC’s attempt to protect consumers from unsubstantiated statements, according to a June 18 FTC news release. In all, the commission has sent similar letters to 250 companies and individuals, the release said.

Koi Wellbeing, based in Bird Rock at 5632 La Jolla Blvd., is listed on the release as pitching intravenous vitamin and/or ozone/oxygen therapies that may prevent or treat COVID-19.

The letter to Koi Wellbeing, dated June 3 and signed by acting FTC Associate Director Richard Quaresima, states the FTC reviewed Koi’s website and social media accounts on May 28 and determined that the business was “unlawfully advertising that certain services and products prevent or treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Referring to Koi’s March 26 Instagram and Facebook posts that read that Koi “is providing immunity-boosting IV therapies, most notably that of High Dose Vitamin C, which has seen positive results in clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19,” the FTC letter stated that “for COVID-19, no such study is currently known to exist for the services and products identified above.”

The commission asked Koi Wellbeing to respond to FTC Assistant Director Richard Cleland within 48 hours regarding the business’s actions to address the FTC’s concerns and further advised Koi to review its other claims for any that “are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

The Instagram and Facebook posts referenced in the letter no longer exist on Koi’s platforms.

Koi Wellbeing Chief Executive Jeff Sternberg told the Light in an email: “I understand the FTC concerns and have no issue with pulling that particular post. ... We immediately removed the one post they referred to and I sent them a letter asking why, according to the FTC, we are able to say that the well-researched use of Vitamin C, zinc and Vitamin B can be effective in the treatment and prevention of every other strain of flu but not COVID-19. I asked for clarity in my letter and an explanation as to why, if COVID-19 is an influenza virus, it is receiving such different treatment than the other prevalent strains of flu.

“I received a response from them stating that it is genetically different and that there were no rigorous studies to support claims typically made about treatment of the flu in general.”

FTC representatives declined to comment further. To view the FTC letter, visit bit.ly/ftcletterkoi.

Koi Wellbeing and Sternberg’s Discovery Health Services, also in Bird Rock, provide testing, vaccines and other therapies for a number of illnesses, including COVID-19 antibody testing.

Following the efforts of a UC San Diego lab to create and confirm validity of a test for COVID-19 antibodies, a local company is making that test available to the public starting Wednesday, May 20.

“There is vigorous research and myriad peer-reviewed studies to support the fact that good nutrition, diet and exercise put us in a better position to defend against illness and infection,” Sternberg said. “I’ll continue to talk about what Koi can do to help people achieve optimal nutrition and balance, and continue to promote prevention as the best medicine. But I’ll do so with an eye to the FTC’s concerns and take caution to avoid implying there is a magic bullet in what we offer.” ◆