Fake products claiming to treat or prevent coronavirus are being sold online - here’s how to spot and report them

By Claire Schofield
Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 12:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 12:20 pm
There are currently no medicines that are specifically licenced to treat or prevent coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)
There are currently no medicines that are specifically licenced to treat or prevent coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

An increasing number of fake products claiming to treat or prevent coronavirus are being sold online, the medicines watchdog has warned.

They include self-testing kits and so-called ‘antiviral misting sprays’, according to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Do the medical products work?

There are currently no medicines that are specifically licenced to treat or prevent coronavirus, according to the MHRA.

Any products claiming to do so have not undergone required regulatory approval for sale in the UK.

The watchdog is currently investigating 14 cases of such unlicensed products being sold via unauthorised websites, and has already disable nine domain names and social media accounts for selling fake health items.

Lynda Scammell, MHRA enforcement official, told The Sun, "Don't be fooled by online offers for medical products to help prevent or treat Covid-19. We cannot guarantee the safety or quality of the product and this poses a risk to your health.

"The risk of buying medicines and medical devices from unregulated websites are that you just don't know what you will receive and could be putting your health at risk. We are working alongside other law enforcement agencies to combat this type of criminal activity."

What should I do if I see a fake treatment for sale online?

The MHRA is running an ongoing campaign, #FakeMeds, in an effort to encourage more people who buy medicines online to ensure they purchase from legitimate sources.

The campaign advises that all medicines and equipment should only be bought from registered pharmacies, and any suspected fake products should be reported to the MHRA. This can be done via their Yellow Card Scheme online.

If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud relating to the purchase of medical products or personal protective equipment, you can also report it to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau online, or call 0300 123 2040.

When will testing be increased in the UK?

Health officials are working to increase the number of Covid-19 tests that can be conducted by PHE to 25,000 per day by mid-April, with the highest-priority cases tested first.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is aiming to carry out 100,000 tests a day in England by May, announcing a five point plan to reach the target.

This will involve:

– Swab tests to check if people already have the virus, using labs run by Public Health England

– Using commercial partners, such as universities and private businesses like Amazon and Boots, to do more swab testing

– Introducing antibody blood tests to check whether people have had the virus

– Surveillance to determine the rate of infection and how it is spreading across the country

– Building a British diagnostics industry, with help from pharmaceutical giants

The target was originally thought to be for the whole of the UK, but the government later issued a correction, saying it will be for England only.

In Scotland, the Scottish government has set a goal of increasing testing to 3,500 per day by the end of April, while Wales plans to increase testing to 9,000 per day by the same deadline.


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