Reed Smith Client Alerts

On April 29, 2020, a federal judge in Los Angeles, California approved a stipulation filed by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) in which Marc Ching, individually and d/b/a Whole Leaf Organics, agreed to a preliminary injunction barring Ching and his company (collectively, “Whole Leaf”) from promoting an herbal supplement as effective against COVID-19 and various CBD-based products as effective cancer treatments, and entered an order setting forth the terms of the stipulated preliminary injunction (the “Order Re Stipulated Preliminary Injunction”).

Auteurs: Kathyleen A. O'Brien Erika N. Auger

CBD oil

Whole Leaf stipulated to the injunction three days after the FTC filed a complaint against Chin and his company in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, together with a parallel administrative proceeding, to permanently stop these unsubstantiated claims. According to the FTC filings, Whole Leaf promoted Thrive, a $36.99 supplement consisting mainly of Vitamin C and herbal extracts, as an “anti viral wellness booster” and “the perfect way to strengthen your immune system against pathogens like COVID-19, the coronavirus.” Although the company claimed that these benefits were clinically or scientifically proven, the FTC stated, unequivocally, that “there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence that Thrive or any of its ingredients treats, prevents or reduces the risk of COVID-19”, a “potentially deadly disease for which there is no proven treatment."

The FTC filings also sought a permanent injunction to stop Whole Leaf from promoting, as effective cancer treatments, several CBD supplements containing cannabidiol and herbal extracts, which it sold for between $39.99 and $125.00 a bottle. The company’s website touted these products as “the most effective innovation in cancer and immune-related proactive supplement support in the last ten years”. It also claimed that they are “effective at slowing mutated cell division, and reduc[ing] the supply of food and oxygen to cancer cells,” and that all of these benefits were clinically or scientifically proven. As noted by the FTC, no competent and reliable human clinical trials of the products had been conducted to substantiate these claims.

The FTC’s actions were prompted, in part, by Whole Leaf’s failure to respond to a warning letter it received from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in November of 2019 which targeted its human and animal drug claims for its CBD products, including its cancer-curing claims. The FDA’s warning letter put the company on notice that it was making “unapproved new drug claims” in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) and gave it fifteen days to stop making these claims. Whole Leaf ignored the letter and continued to make its unsubstantiated claims.