Clinic apologizes for claiming its supplement could prevent or treat COVID-19

A Calgary naturopathic clinic has apologized for claiming it has developed a supplement that could prevent or treat COVID-19, and the national association says it regrets the clinic's claim.

National association also said it regrets the clinic's 'false and misleading statements'

A man wears a protective mask to prevent contracting a coronavirus in this February file photo from Iran. A Calgary clinic has apologized after claiming it had developed a supplement to help prevent and treat COVID-19. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

A Calgary naturopathic clinic has apologized for claiming it has developed a supplement that could prevent or treat COVID-19, and the national association says it regrets the clinic's claim.

CBC News reported on Sunday morning that Calgary Integrative Medicine claimed it would have a new supplement available to help with the outbreak next week.

"Boost your immune system! We have formulated a supplement to help prevent, and hopefully help treat the virus," the email, which was sent to patients on Friday, read. "Little is known about the treatment of this virus, but there are various agents showing promising results."

Four cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, were found in Alberta this week. There are no known treatments that specifically target the illness.

On Sunday afternoon, Janelle Murphy, a naturopath at the clinic, said she issued a retraction and an apology for the claim she had made.

"I understand that these statements are misleading and that there is no proven method for preventing contraction of the virus, other than the steps outlined by Canada's Public Health Agency, which I fully support," Murphy said in an emailed statement.

"I deeply regret any confusion or harm these statements might have caused and recognize that it was irresponsible of me to have issued them. The health and safety of my patients and fellow Canadians remains my priority."

Murphy said the statement would be shared with clinic patients immediately. The clinic also appeared to have deleted its Facebook and Instagram pages as of Sunday afternoon.

National association aware of false statement

The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors also sent out a statement Sunday, saying it had been made aware of the CBC News report that the Calgary clinic had made "false and misleading statements."

"We regret that a CAND member may have negatively impacted efforts to safeguard public health and
pandemic management with misleading statements," CAND chair Mark Fontes said in an emailed release.

Fontes said that CAND reiterates that all naturopaths must follow guidelines for COVID-19 response established by local public health agencies.

"There are no proven methods for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 — claims otherwise made by any health professionals are invalid and should be reported immediately to applicable regulators," he said.

Naturopaths cannot treat COVID-19

Fontes said the association has asked its members to reiterate the following message, which it said has already been communicated at least twice and posted on its website: "[Naturopaths] cannot treat COVID-19. [Naturopaths] must follow the protocols and guidelines of their local public health authorities as well as any requirements of the regulatory authorities in jurisdictions where the profession is regulated."

Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, had said he was infuriated by the clinic's claim.

"They are leveraging the fear and confusion around coronavirus to sell a product that almost certainly does not work," Caulfield said.

"There's no evidence that supplements help in this context at all … this is part of a larger pattern, but when it's being in the context of a serious public health issue like coronavirus, it's particularly problematic."


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.