CHICAGO (CBS) — Every day, the numbers keep climbing – thousands of people testing positive for coronavirus, and hundreds dying.
And as CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reported Monday night, even those without symptoms can fall prey to increasing claims for treatments and cures that are unproven.
A concerned viewer tipped the CBS 2 Investigators about some unbelievable treatment claims being made for a powdered supplement Called IF-200.
The written answers to frequently asked questions about the supplement were handed to a CBS 2 investigative producer by an employee at the Pain Relief Institute in Elmhurst. It describes IF-200 as a “revolutionary patented composition of amino acids” that help “fight and prevent viruses including COVID-19.”
The handout says, “It has been clinically observed with the current COVID-19 virus and has had excellent success in turning patients around in 48-72 hours who are COVID-19 positive.”
We showed the claims to Dr. Melinda Ring, director of Northwestern Medicine’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, who specializes in vitamins and supplements.
“Claims like that should not be made at this point for any dietary supplements or natural products,” Dr. Ring said. “It’s inappropriate and would encourage people to rush out and buy something that isn’t proven.”
The IF-200 flier even puts a little pressure being on people, saying there’s a limited supply and they only have enough for 10,000 people. The inference is that you’d better hurry up and buy some, or it’s not going to available.
“Yeah, I think these sorts of claims need to be shut down,” Dr. Ring said.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission issued warnings to three other companies for fraudulently selling other products with claims they would prevent or treat COVID-19. We checked on line and those companies have removed those claims.
So what about the claims made for IF-200?
In a phone interview, the Pain Relief Institute’s Neelesh Patel said their lawyers were still reviewing the wording of the question and answer fact sheet and it was not supposed to be handed out by the employee at the clinic.
He added they have not sold the supplement to any patients.
But in an email to our producer, Patel wrote that depending on the dosage, she could buy a one-to two-month supply for $180 – adding it is preferred she be seen for an exam first, and follow up with appointments on her progress.
Records show Patel’s license as a chiropractor was suspended by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation in 2015 for “engaging in health care fraud.”
The year before, Patel signed a deferred prosecution agreement.in a federal court insurance fraud indictment by admitting he billed for $245,000 in physical therapy services not performed. He agreed to pay back one insurer more than $87,000.
On the website of the Pain Relief Institute, Patel describes himself as the patient care coordinator and says, “We are going to try and find every natural and holistic solution to help with joint pain, back pain, pretty much any type of pain.”
Patel told CBS 2 that the clinic is now partnering with a Georgia company called Lile Wellness Partners that produced the handout for IF-200 – which was under review by his lawyers – and provided the supplement for which there were all kinds of claims about how it could help patients suffering from Covid19.
“What do you think about people who are making those kinds of claims in this environment? Zekman asked Dr. Ring.
“I think many people are in a state of panic right now – a fear for themselves for their loved ones, and more prone probably right now that there is some magic pill solution that is going to make the immune from getting the virus,” Ring said.
Several days after we inquired about it, Patel sent us a greatly-revised version of the IF-200 document that does not mention COVID-19.
Patel also sent emails that he says show talks were under way to make those changes before his clinic employee mistakenly gave the old version to us.
The owner of Lile Wellness Partners, the Georgia company that supplies the supplement, did not return our calls.