It’s an unfortunate fact of life that crisis feeds fraud. During times of emergency, people are more prone to manipulation and scams than normal, and unfortunately, many have used the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to swindle concerned Americans and put their health at risk.
Prominent Wellness Community Figure Claims COVID-19 Cure
One of the most blatant examples of COVID-19 fraud occurred when a well-known doctor, Dominique Fradin-Read, told her viewers she could protect them from the coronavirus with “one of the best ways to prevent and fight COVID-19.”
Fradin-Read made this declaration in April 2020, after the pandemic had already killed more than 50,000 Americans. As the owner of VitaLifeMD in Los Angeles and contributor to Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand Goop, Fradin-Read promoted this “FDA-approved” medicine to her entire online audience.
According to Fradin-Read, her medication worked like “magic” to make sure “the virus will not be that hard to fight.” Given that pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been working around-the-clock since January and February to develop medications proven to treat COVID-19 and pass the FDA’s standards, Fradin-Read’s declarations were, in the best case scenario, very misleading.
In the worst case scenario, they were downright dangerous. Viewers who believed Fradin-Read’s claims may have assumed they’d be protected from the pandemic if they simply took her recommended prescription of thymosin alpha-1.
What is Thymosin Alpha-1?
Thymosin Alpha-1, despite Fradin-Read’s claims, has never been approved by the FDA. It also hasn’t been tested or proven safe or effective for the treatment of COVID-19.
Yet Fradin-Read’s practice is one of more than 30 that is pushing thymosin alpha-1 as the best answer to COVID-19. It’s true that this prescription has been studied as a potential treatment for illnesses like hepatitis B and certain cancers, and regulators in other countries have approved the drug for certain conditions.
In the U.S, thymosin alpha-1 has never been FDA-approved to treat any condition, but it is designated as an “orphan drug” used for research. Fradin-Read and others seem to be blurring the lines between “approved” and “used for research,” leading people to unknowingly seek a treatment that isn’t designed specifically for COVID-19.
How is Thymosin Alpha-1 Available?
Thymosin alpha-1 isn’t approved by the FDA, which means pharmaceutical companies are not manufacturing or selling it. Instead, compounding pharmacies produce customized drugs like thymosin alpha-1. These aren’t pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens. They’re small drug manufacturers that mix and sell drugs to meet specific needs.
Compounding pharmacies play a very important role in the health care system to help patients avoid allergies or seek treatments for unique conditions, but they’re not meant to sell medications under false pretenses.
“They are subject to a lower quality standard, and so it’s very important that they really only be used when medically necessary,” said Julie Dohm, a former FDA official, who led the agency’s work on compounding pharmacies.
Unfortunately, thymosin alpha-1 isn’t the only fake or misleading COVID treatment out there. Americans should keep in mind that, in the words of the FDA, “There are no FDA-approved drugs to prevent, treat or mitigate COVID-19.”