- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Distributor for Falsely Marketing and Selling Fake Hand Sanitizer to Local Schools
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey has sued an Illinois-based company for falsely marketing and selling a fake hand sanitizer product to school districts across the state, claiming it could kill the COVID-19 virus and provide a multi-hour barrier against the virus without the need for reapplication.
The AG’s complaint, filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that School Health Corporation (School Health) violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act when it misled school districts in Framingham, Winchester, Nahant, Swampscott and New Bedford, the Bridgewater-Raynham and Wachusett Regional School Districts and the City of Malden, into purchasing more than $100,000 worth of “Theraworx Protect” at the beginning of the pandemic between March 2020 and July 2020. School Health claimed that the product was an effective alternative to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when, in fact, it did not contain any of the key ingredients in hand sanitizer.
“This company exploited fears around a growing public health crisis in order to profit by selling a bogus hand sanitizer to schools looking to stop the spread,” said AG Healey. “We are suing to hold this company accountable for these illegal actions that put the health of our children, teachers, and staff at risk.”
According to documents and emails obtained during the AG’s investigation, both customers and employees of School Health questioned the company’s statements about Theraworx Protect’s performance and ingredients. The complaint also alleges that School Health staff acknowledged in an email to a client in March of 2020 that it had no reliable or scientific evidence to back up claims that the product was effective in combatting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite this, School Health allegedly continued to falsely market the product to public entities as a way to kill the virus.
Today’s lawsuit follows a $550,000 settlement the AG’s Office reached with Federal Resources Supply Company, another distributor of Theraworx Protect, for falsely marketing the product to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) as being able to fight off the virus when the product contained no alcohol. After the settlement was announced last November, officials from Framingham Public Schools contacted the AG’s Office claiming that School Health’s false representations about Theraworx Protect led them to purchase more than $80,000 worth of the product, placing it in schools throughout the city. These false representations included an email from a School Health employee to a Framingham official stating, “You will be fine with the Theraworx product for the purposes of it killing COVID etc… Theraworx is 100% safe for eyes, ingestions etc…” and another was a letter stating that “Theraworx Protect is one of the few products, indicated to be applied to the hands and face, that meets the recommendations of the CDC to prevent disease transmission.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that hand sanitizers that use any active ingredients other than alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, or benzalkonium chloride are not legally marketed as hand sanitizers and consumers should avoid their use. According to the AG’s complaint, Theraworx Protect does not contain any of these key ingredients for hand sanitizer and the product’s packaging does not include a drug facts label, as is required for hand sanitizers. Avadim Health, Inc., Theraworx Protect’s manufacturer, has registered the product as a “cosmetic” with the FDA and it has never been approved for use as a hand sanitizer. According to the AG’s complaint, Theraworx Protect contains colloidal silver, an ingredient the FDA ruled in 1999 was neither safe nor effective in the treatment or prevention of any disease.
The AG’s complaint is seeking triple damages, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs of its investigation and with those proceeds the AG’s Office plans to reimburse affected cities and towns.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mary-Ellen Kennedy of AG Healey’s False Claims Division, with assistance from False Claims Division Chief Amy Crafts, Assistant Attorney General Shannon Keating, Paralegal Cara Bradley and former Special Assistant Attorney General Coleman Gay.
The False Claims Division was created by AG Healey in 2015 to safeguard public funds and promote integrity and accountability in public contracting. AG Healey urges anyone with information about suspected fraud or abuse relating to state or municipal contracts or funds to contact the False Claims Division’s tip line at 617-963-2600.