Select Subcommittee Launches Investigation into Online Entities Pushing Coronavirus Misinformation and Selling Unproven Treatments

Oct 29, 2021
Press Release
Clyburn Calls on Federal Trade Commission to Investigate America’s Frontline Doctors and SpeakWithAnMD.com for Deceptive Practices

Washington, D.C. (October 29, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, launched an investigation into online entities that are spreading misinformation and facilitating access to disproven and potentially hazardous coronavirus treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.  In letters to America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) founder Dr. Simone Gold, and SpeakWithAnMD.com founder Dr. Jerome Corsi, Chairman Clyburn requested documents and information related to these groups’ business practices and profits.  Chairman Clyburn also wrote to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan requesting an investigation to determine whether these entities have violated federal law.

“Attempts to monetize coronavirus misinformation have eroded public confidence in proven treatments and prevention measures and hindered efforts to control the pandemic.  Some Americans who have been influenced by misinformation have chosen not to get vaccinated, delayed receiving evidence-based treatment, and ingested unapproved substances in harmful quantities,” wrote Chairman Clyburn to Dr. Gold.  “[AFLDS] is reportedly among the top purveyors of questionable treatments nationwide and a prominent source of misinformation related to the coronavirus.  I am concerned that efforts by AFLDS and similar groups are endangering American lives and harming our efforts to stop the spread of the virus.  I write today to seek information on how AFLDS has profited from these abusive practices and to urge you to stop promoting untested and dangerous claims.”

AFLDS and SpeakWithAnMD.com have used social media to spread misinformation about the coronavirus and facilitate access to discredited coronavirus treatments over the course of the pandemic.  AFLDS and SpeakWithAnMD.com have touted drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as effective for coronavirus treatment and prevention.  The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health have cautioned that these drugs are not effective in preventing or treating coronavirus and can cause severe illness.

AFLDS and SpeakWithAnMD.com have reportedly received more than $6.7 million for facilitating paid telehealth consultations and off-label prescriptions for the purported coronavirus treatments that they promote online.  According to public reporting, AFLDS referred over 255,000 individuals to SpeakWithAnMD.com for consultations with “AFLDS-trained physicians” between July 16, 2021 and September 12, 2021—approximately 72,000 of whom paid $90 for initial phone consultations and many of whom had follow-up consultations for an additional $60.  Following these consultations, SpeakWithAnMD.com’s medical providers prescribed thousands of doses of unproven coronavirus treatments, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.  Patients reportedly paid millions of dollars to fill these prescriptions, nearly all out-of-pocket.

Today’s letters seek information on the coronavirus-related consultations and prescriptions provided by AFLDS or SpeakWithAnMD.com, as well as the profits, revenues, and organizational structure of these entities.   

In a letter to the FTC, Chairman Clyburn raised concerns about the deceptive conduct of companies promoting and profiting from misinformation about the coronavirus, including AFLDS and SpeakWithAnMD.com. 

“I am concerned that AFLDS and SpeakWithAnMD.com are spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and profiting off the promotion of questionable treatments to the detriment of the American public,” Chairman Clyburn wrote to FTC.  “The promotion of falsehoods about coronavirus, questionable treatments, and vaccines is life-threatening.  I believe these deceptive practices may also violate the FTC Act, the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, or other relevant laws.  For these reasons, I urge FTC to open an investigation into these matters and appropriately exercise its enforcement authority.”   

Click here to read Chairman Clyburn’s letter to America’s Frontline Doctors founder, Dr. Simone Gold.

Click here to read Chairman Clyburn’s letter to SpeakWithAnMD.com founder, Dr. Jerome Corsi.

Click here to read Chairman Clyburn’s letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina M. Khan.

 

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117th Congress