Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer Monday will announce a settlement with a Chinese genetic testing company over allegations it advertised and sold at-home COVID-19 testing kits that lacked FDA approval.
For just $40, said a news release from the company, you could prick your finger and in 15 minutes learn “with a specificity of 100%” whether you’d tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to yhe Los Angeles Times. The “Corona Virus At-Home Test Kit” was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, its manufacturer trumpeted on Twitter.
Thas was not the case. Yikon Genomics, a Chinese company staffed by researchers from some of the country’s leading universities, agreed in a settlement with the Los Angeles city attorney’s office to pull its unauthorized product from the market and refund anyone who purchased it, The Times reported ahead of Feuer’ announcement. Feuer scheduled his announcement at 10 a.m.
As a pandemic sweeps across the United States, straining medical workers’ ability to test for the coronavirus, a mishmash of laboratories, entrepreneurs and outright charlatans have begun selling “home test kits” for COVID-19, The Times reported.
While the FDA says it wants to develop home testing for COVID-19 and is “actively working with test developers” to that end, as of Sunday, the agency has approved no such kits. Such unauthorized and potentially bogus tests put people at risk, the FDA says. If someone uses a defective test that returns a false negative, he or she could fail to seek treatment and unwittingly expose others to the virus.
Moreover, people are being swindled of their money, a deputy city attorney wrote in a complaint lodged against Yikon Genomics, alleging it violated, among other laws, California business codes that forbid false and misleading advertising. The Times reported.
“Whenever consumers are motivated in part by fears,” wrote the deputy, William R. Pletcher, according to The Times “they are particularly vulnerable to fraudsters, scammers, and `snake oil’ hucksters and charlatans who prey on those fears to persuade the consumers to seek `cures,’ `treatments,’ and other protections, such as tests.”
While local and federal authorities have charged numerous alleged grifters with peddling fake cures and inoculations for the coronavirus, Yikon Genomics is no fly-by-night operation, according to The Times
Based in China, Yikon Genomics registered a Foster City address in 2013 with the California secretary of state. Its director, according to state records, is Xiaoliang “Sunney” Xie, a professor of biophysical chemistry and dean of sciences at Peking University. Xie didn’t return an email seeking comment, according to The Times.
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