Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc.
Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc. is a California-based alternative medicine company charged by the Federal Trade Commission in July 2020 with false advertising of unproven COVID-19 treatments.
Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical was founded in 2016 by Huu Tieu. It is the sister company of Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical, Inc., founded by Tieu in September 2011. The two companies – referred to as the Golden Sunrise Companies in legal documents – shared Tieu as their CEO.
False advertising charges
On April 29, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission issued a warning letter to Golden Sunrise, claiming that their advertisements of various herbal remedies, cellular therapies and plans of care for COVID-19 violated the Federal Trade Commission. In May 2020, an undercover investigator visited Tieu, claiming his elderly mother was sick with COVID-19. Tieu, according a press release of the Department of Justice, sought to dissuade him from taking her to the hospital, and suggested Golden Sunrise preparations instead. By this time, the investigation included the HHS Inspector General, the US Postal Inspection Service, the FDA, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and California Department of Health Care Services.
After non-compliance by Golden Sunrise, the Federal Bureau of Investigations executed a search warrant on Golden Sunrise's headquarters in Porterville.
In late July 2021, the Federal Trade Commission eventually sued Golden Sunrise, as well as its founder Huu Tieu and medical director Dr. Stephen Meis, with violations of the FTC Act in respect of their COVID-19 claims, as well as claims that their products can cure cancer and Parkinson's disease, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. In the complaint, the FTC alleged, among others, that Golden Sunrise was offering four 'plans of care', including the 'Emergency D-Virus Plan of Care', which was claimed to cure COVID-19.
The court filing also stated a number of other conditions that Golden Sunrise's 'plans of care' claimed to cure or treat included stroke, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Most products were found to consist of herbs and herbal extracts, despite product names that evoked well-known biopharmaceuticals: the FTC's filing noted, for instance, that AnterFerron-1 – sounding similar to the immunomodulator interferon – consisted of bilberry leaf extract, graviola and goldenseal. The treatment plans were priced between $170,000 and $200,000.
Golden Sunrise marketed a treatment plan for viral diseases called the 'Emergency D-Virus treatment plan'. This consisted of various natural extracts, such as olive tree, turmeric, cayenne pepper, mistletoe, astragalus and reishi. In addition, Golden Sunrise falsely claimed that these supplements were FDA approved prescription medicines that were granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) status by the FDA.
Following the FDA's warning letter, Golden Sunrise deleted direct references to COVID-19 and instead obliquely referred to it as 'the pandemic' or 'the virus'. The Golden Sunrise companies continued to market the 'Emergency D-Virus treatment plan', claiming that it would clear up symptoms of COVID-19 "within two to four days".
Dr. Stephen Meis acted as the expert endorser of the product On 11 June 2021, the FTC introduced a stipulated order of settlement with Golden Sunrise's medical director, Stephen Meis. According to this order, Dr. Meis would pay restitution of $103,420 to defrauded customers and prohibits him from making false medical claims. The order was signed by the judge, while litigation continues against Tieu and the Golden Sunrise companies. This includes a federal indictment against Tieu for mail fraud and violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
- "Federal Trade Commission charges Porterville company with false advertising". The Sun-Gazette. 12 August 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
- United States v. Huu Tieu (E. D. Cal. 07 September 2020). Text
- Brown, Dama (29 April 2020). "Unsubstantiated Claims for Coronavirus Prevention and Treatment" (PDF) (Letter). Letter to Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
- "Tulare County Man Indicted for Falsely Marketing Herbal Mixtures as FDA-Approved Treatment for COVID-19" (Press release). Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California. 14 July 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
- Espinoza, Alexis (12 June 2020). "FBI conducting search warrant at Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical". The Porterville Recorder. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
- "FTC Sues California Marketer of $23,000 COVID-19 "Treatment" Plan" (Press release). Federal Trade Commission. 31 July 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
- Federal Trade Commission v. Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical, Inc., Huu Tieu and Stephen Meis (E. D. Cal. 30 July 2020). Text
- Federal Trade Commission v. Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical, Inc., Huu Tieu and Stephen Meis (E. D. Cal. 11 June 2021). Text
- Edelstein, Jeffrey (23 June 2021). "FTC Prohibits Medical Director of $23,000 COVID-19 'Treatment' Plan From Making False Health Claims". JDSupra. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
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