FTC sues Utah-based company over claims nasal spray prevents, treats COVID-19

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A Utah-based company has been sued by federal regulators for allegedly falsely saying its saline nasal sprays are an effective way to prevent and treat COVID-19.

Xlear, Inc., based in American Fork, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week. In the lawsuit against the company and its owner, the FTC asks a federal court in Utah to impose monetary penalties and bar Xlear from continuing to make such false and unsupported claims.

“Companies can’t make unsupported health claims, no matter what form a product takes or what it supposedly prevents or treats,” says Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s the lesson of this case and many others like it, and it’s why people should continue to rely on medical professionals over ads.”

According to the FTC, Xlear sells products like nasal sprays, dental care products, and sweeteners. The nasal sprays are marketed under the Xlear Sinus Care brand and contain xylitol and grapefruit seed extract, among other things. These sprays can be found on Amazon and at retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid.

In its complaint, the FTC says Xlear and its founder and president, Nathan Jones, have, since at least March 2020, promoted the nasal sprays by “falsely claiming they provide four hours of protection against infection from the coronavirus and therefore are ‘a simple, safe, and cheap option that could be an effective solution to the pandemic.'” The company is accused of making these and similar allegedly false and unsubstantiated claims online, on social media, and other platforms.

In late March 2021, Xlear posted a message to its Facebook that it has “removed a number of scientific studies and posted disclaimers on our website and social media. We have done this at the insistence of the Federal Trade Commission. We believe the FTC has no authority to stop us from giving you accurate scientific information. Moreover, the FTC lacks the scientific/medical expertise to evaluate such data. However, we are trying to work with the FTC to fix this.”

The FTC reports Xlear has not done any clinical trials to support its COVID-19 related claims and “its advertising grossly misrepresented the purported findings and relevance of several scientific studies.” In July 2020, the FTC sent Xlear and Jones a warning letter, seen here, about this matter. According to federal regulators, Xlear and Jones promised to remove the claims but continued making them.

Currently, Xlear has links to studies about the efficacy of xylitol and a message for visitors to “tell the CDC about Xlear” by signing a petition. A screengrab of their website as of October 29 is seen below.

In that letter, the FTC reports no study had found the effectiveness of the nasal spray. In a November 2020 study posted on Cureus and found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, researchers reviewed just three patients who “demonstrated an improvement in the [COVID-19] symptoms” when using Xlear nasal spray. Those researchers warned a “larger randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial studies are mandated which could shed further light on this topic.”

In a second study found on the National Library of Medicine, a clinical trial is currently underway to evaluate the efficacy of xylitol nasal spray, with Xlear being a collaborator. One of the researchers involved in this trial conducted the previous research published in November 2020. This clinical trial is not scheduled to be completed until summer 2022.

According to Mayo Clinic, “there is no evidence that rinsing your nose with saline protects against infection with the COVID-19 virus.”

In a statement shared with ABC4, Jones calls the lawsuit “nonsensical.” The statement continues, in part:

In sharp contrast to trying to protect the American public, the Government is doing all in its power to stop Xlear from simply telling the public about the science.  It is profoundly ironic that the Government, which now constantly ignores science for political reasons, suggests that it is taking this action against Xlear to somehow protect the people.  From what is the Government protecting Americans? From the facts. From the science.  From their right to know. 

Notwithstanding the Government’s litany of failures in protecting Americans from COVID-19, the Government seeks to pin blame on Xlear, a small company trying to help Americans understand there are other things that you can do that may help to provide additional layer of protection against COVID-19 for you, your friends, and your family.  Get vaccinated, wear a mask, social distance, use common-sense, wash your hands—and wash your nose.

The Government tells people to wash their hands; Yet COVID-19 is an upper respiratory illness.  Most COVID-19 infections start in the nose.  It makes commonsense to wash your nose.  People have been using nasal cleansing to fight respiratory illnesses going back thousands of years.

Xlear denies the Government’s allegations.  We will vigorously defend against the Government’s case, and, in doing so, defend the science against politics, paternalism, and dogmaticism.

This is the second Utah-based company federal regulators have found to be falsely advertising products. Last week, a federal court ordered Grandma’s Herbs of St. George to stop selling products until they come into compliance with federal regulations and requirements.

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