Our Beacon Forum

Zero tolerance for pandemic profiteering
By:Richard Dawkins Foundation
Date: Monday, 16 March 2020, 8:34 pm

Center for Inquiry

Zero tolerance for pandemic profiteering

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, there is more than enough confusion and desperation already. It’s no surprise when conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, pseudoscience peddlers like Gwyneth Paltrow, and televangelist bamboozlers like Jim Bakker try to profit off of a pandemic by selling fake cures and useless treatments, and thankfully, authorities are stepping up to stop them.

But what would happen if trusted drug retailers also started hawking fake treatments? Because that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

The Center for Inquiry’s own Nick Little recently witnessed this for himself when shopping at a Wegmans supermarket this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. There, he saw on display a range of homeopathic products, prominently displayed and discounted in a sale timed to take advantage of consumers’ desperation to stock up and prepare for community lockdowns over the coronavirus.

As both a Wegmans shopper and as CFI’s Vice President and Legal Counsel, Nick sent a message to the company’s CEO, Colleen Wegman.

I was … appalled to enter your Charlottesville store on Friday, March 13, and see that not only have you continued to sell homeopathic products, but, unbelievably, you ran a promotion on these products, with many being listed at lower prices than normal. As a result, the shelves were stripped bare of homeopathic products.

Nick explained her that there is a global pandemic going on, in case she needed reminding:

To promote and encourage the use of what can only be described as snake oil in this situation is one of the most irresponsible things I can imagine. People rely on your pharmacy for their health needs. People will, as a result of your profit-seeking actions, rely on homeopathic products to treat and prevent COVID-19 and go about their regular activities with a false sense of security that they are protected and that they cannot pass this virus on to their family, friends and colleagues.

Of course, the Center for Inquiry is fighting fake medicine on many fronts, most notably our two groundbreaking consumer-protection lawsuits against Walmart and CVS for their own deceptive marketing of homeopathic fake medicine.

During this precarious and bewildering point in history, reliance on facts and science is absolutely critical. There can be no more tolerance of pseudoscientific treatments and snake oil. Millions of lives are at stake. We hope that Nick’s letter convinces Wegmans to change course and cease the sale of fake treatments, and we will continue the fight against fake medicine.

To carry out that fight, we need your support. Now more than ever.