CREVE COEUR — A Creve Coeur chiropractor and his company made false claims that their zinc and Vitamin D products were more effective in treating or preventing COVID-19 than vaccines, the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday.
Despite warnings, Eric Anthony Nepute and his company, Quickwork LLC, which does business as Wellness Warrior, have continued to make the bogus health claims, the commission said.
Both Nepute and his company sell “their products by disseminating misinformation, exploiting fears in the midst of a pandemic, and posing a significant risk to public health and safety,” the commission said in a federal action seeking to block further sales. Nepute and his company could also face civil penalties.
Nepute did not immediately return a message Friday seeking comment.
The action against Nepute is the first in the country brought under the federal COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, which makes it illegal “to engage in a deceptive act or practice that is associated with ‘the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID-19,’” the FTC said.
The complaint also says Nepute violated an FTC provision that “prohibits the dissemination of any false advertisement” to induce “the purchase of food, drugs, devices, services or cosmetics.”
The FTC suit says Nepute promoted his false health claims in lengthy video monologues on Facebook and elsewhere that were viewed millions of times.
When Facebook shut down his page in February, Nepute created a new page and website and reposted his videos, the suit says.
“Nepute’s videos claimed that ‘COVID-19 patients who get enough Vitamin D are 52% less likely to die’ and that people who get enough Vitamin D3 ‘have a 77 percent less chance of getting infected in the first place,’” the FTC said, despite no “competent and reliable scientific evidence” or “published studies” to back up the claim. Instead, Nepute twisted the conclusions of scientific studies to support his sales pitch, the complaint says.
Nepute made similar, unsupported claims about zinc, according to the complaint.
Nepute and his company sell a bottle containing 30 soft gels of “Wellness Warrior Vita D” for $24.95, the complaint says, and $24 for a bottle of zinc pills.
Walgreens’ website Friday was offering 180 Vitamin D soft gels for about $13.
There are many internet videos by Nepute, including interviews on social media, and include claims that masks can be harmful and that coronavirus death statistics have been inflated. He has said that he’s spoken to governors and members of Congress about health matters.
Nepute also has an office in south St. Louis County and a “sports enhancement facility” in Fenton, his website says.
In April 2020, the Missouri State Board of Chiropractic Examiners sued Nepute in St. Louis County Circuit Court, saying he was falsely claiming to be a doctor and was promoting tonic water and zinc as a preventative or cure for COVID-19. The suit sought a judge’s order banning him from making such claims, but it was dismissed by the board two weeks later.
In a video interview last year, Nepute discussed receiving a letter from the FTC about his coronavirus claims, as well as contact from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and “my governing board,” presumably the chiropractic board. Nepute said within 24 hours his lawyers had given the FTC data on zinc and Vitamin D.
The FTC’s response, according to Nepute, was, “All right. Cool. Got it. No worries. We’re good. Moving on.”