As the Ebola epidemic continues raging on and posing a serious medical threat, the lack of a successful cure remains a huge concern. However, that hasn’t stopped a few companies from claiming their products could treat the virus. This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had to take action against three companies which have been marketing their products as potential treatments for Ebola.


The companies in question – Natural Solutions Foundation, Young Living, and dōTERRA International, LLC – all specialize primarily in the distribution of natural remedies and essential oils which, according to most recent statements on their websites and marketing messages via social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube, can serve to protect individuals from the virus, as well as help fight it if it has already been contracted. The companies even go beyond the claims that their products can help fight Ebola, and also promote their use for conditions like autism, cancer, ADHD, brain injury, and several others.


The FDA has issued letters to each of the three companies in response to these assertions, warning them that such claims promoting the use of these products in order to treat or prevent the aforementioned conditions not only establish the products as drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, but more specifically define them as “new drugs,” which may not be introduced into any market until being proven safe and effective for use by the FDA. Having neglected these requirements and marketed these products as effective solutions for the treatment and prevention of a range of serious medical conditions including Ebola without approval from the FDA, these companies have essentially acted in direct violation of the regulations set forth by the agency.


The FDA states in its letters that each company has a total of 15 working days to respond with updates on the corrective actions being taken to remedy the situation and to ensure compliance with federal regulations moving forward. In the event that any of the companies fail to cooperate in this regard, the FDA states that it may then take further regulatory actions without additional notice.


Regardless of the steps that each of the three companies will take from here, it is hard to see the marketing tactics that they have engaged in as acceptable, and it is difficult to imagine that an issue like this will not have an effect on their reputations in the future. To a certain extent, without the proper evidence to support the claims being made about their products, it appears like what each of these companies has done is exploit the need to find cures to ongoing serious medical conditions in the interest of making a profit, with their latest claims taking advantage of the lack of an existent alternative to curing Ebola.


Whether these remedies truly have the potential to work for the purposes that the companies are claiming they do or not isn’t necessarily the issue here. In fact, if there is any good to come from this controversy, it is that it may open a dialogue regarding the value of exploring and putting research into natural remedies, like we do for drug-based solutions. However, the major problem here is that without unequivocal proof of any product’s positive effects, it seems entirely unethical to confidently engage in any kind of marketing that takes advantage of worried populations and perpetuates false ideas, and more importantly false hope, regarding treatment of the conditions they claim to cure.


What do you think about these companies marketing their products as having the potential to treat Ebola in addition to a number of other serious medical conditions without the proper proof? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi