FDA warns consumers about fake Ebola drugs

The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about fake drugs, vaccines and supplements being sold online as treatments to cure or prevent Ebola.

The regulatory agency issued an alert Thursday reminding consumers that only the FDA has authority to approve a drug or vaccine, and has not yet approved any products as a treatment for the disease.

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The warning comes amid a massive outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has killed over a thousand people in West Africa.

“Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, the FDA has seen and received consumer complaints about a variety of products claiming to either prevent the Ebola virus or treat the infection,” said the agency.

“There are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet.”

Only a handful of experimental drugs and vaccines are currently under development to treat Ebola as global health officials race to stop the disease, which has affected people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Most stocks of potential drugs or vaccines have also either been depleted or are very limited, making them unavailable to most people.

The FDA warned companies about making such false claims and said consumers should report them to the agency via a consumer hotline or online form.  

“Individuals promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face potential FDA action,” said the regulator.

FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson says the agency has received a “handful of complaints” and is monitoring the situation.

“We’ve seen things across several ‘product’ categories including unapproved drugs, dietary supplements and some oil product,” she said.

Google searches for "Ebola cures" return a number of ads for products such as high-dose vitamin C pills, and the supplement monolaurin, found in breast and coconut milk, as supposed treatments for the disease.

This story was updated at 4:50 p.m.