SAN DIEGO — A California pediatrician was among three healthcare professionals ordered to pay $15,000 each in civil penalties and injunctive relief after allegedly making false claims about COVID-19 to advertise the sale of essential oils and nutritional supplements.
Dr. Tina Wong, along with Georgia-based nurse practitioner Eliza Johnson Bacot and former Utah registered nurse Lauren Busch, settled complaints filed by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission for alleged statements made about products they distributed through dōTERRA Interntional, LLC.
dōTERRA is a Utah-based multilevel marketing company that specializes in the sale of essential oils, supplements and other products.
According to the complaints filed, Wong and the other healthcare professionals violated the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act of 2020 — which made it illegal to use unsubstantiated statements regarding the virus to sell a product — with claims purportedly made in a series of webinars representing dōTERRA products as effective in preventing and treating COVID.
Some of the statements allegedly made by Wong, according to the complaint, included the promotion of the dōTERRA chewable products to help prevent children from contracting the virus, that certain oils prevent COVID by stopping binding of the virus to cells, and that smelling products from the company will counteract long-haul symptoms.
The government argued that these claims were violations of the CCPA, as there has been no published report of any reputable study that substantiates the statements. Because of that, they said, they were misleading consumers.
According to court documents, Wong allegedly made these statements during two seminars hosted by dōTERRA distributors where she was a presenter.
The first was a Jan. 12, 2022 Zoom webinar called, “The Path Forward: Protocols for the Current Climate,” that included around 500 participants, according to court filings.
The complaint alleged that Wong said things like: “There’s lots of studies that show that oregano (essential oil) is effective against a coronavirus, which is the family that COVID is in,” and “this pediatric prevention/support for COVID…it starts with nutrition. And I like this slide because this is the order in which you want to give these supplements.”
The other alleged presentation mentioned in court filings as having represented deception by Wong to sell essential oil products was at a Jan. 27, 2022 webinar called “The Doctors Are In.”
The Justice Department detailed five different sections of her presentation that included unsubstantiated claims about COVID during the seminar in their initial complaint, including the following statement about the use of dōTERRA’s essential oil product “On Guard”:
“Every cell has a protective oily membrane that keeps out bacteria, keeps out diseases. And what happens is there’s another disease that actually works inside the cell and that’s the virus, like the COVID virus… essential oils can penetrate through the cell membrane and work within the cell to kill viruses or to change their modulation, the way that they’re expressed… On Guard, in particular, is a great oil for this time because it really helps with antivirus.”
According to the Justice Department, the three were barred from making claims relating to prevention or treatment of the virus for products or services, aside from those approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
In a statement to FOX5SanDiego.com, dōTERRA said that they were aware of the settlements with the distributors for the company.
“dōTERRA does not condone claims that its products prevent or cure COVID-19, as this would be a violation of our policies,” CEO Corey Lindley said in the emailed statement. “dōTERRA is committed to training its distributors and monitoring claims made to existing and potential customers to ensure that they comply with what the law allows us to say about the health benefits of our products.”