City Attorney Mike Feuer and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey Friday announced a lawsuit against a company that allegedly sold COVID-19 blood serum tests that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The attorneys alleged Applied Biosciences Corp. sold and marketed the antibody test kits for $35 each and claimed the tests were 96% accurate. In a press release, the company claimed that with a small blood sample, the tests could identify the early or late stages of someone’s antibody levels in less than 15 minutes.
“We’re asking the court to stop these defendants from continuing to market and sell the at-home test kits,” Lacey said. “We’re also seeking civil penalties and restitution for all consumers who bought the test kits. Under the law, we may seek as much as $2,500 in penalties for each violation.”
Antibody tests are a way to examine blood serum to find out if someone has recently recovered from COVID-19, which can be especially helpful to stopping the spread of the virus if the person did not experience symptoms. Health experts say those tests don’t necessarily tell if someone is infectious or not.
“Our lawsuit accuses the company of making false claims that are misleading, unfair, unlawful and quite frankly, dangerous,” Lacey said. “At all times, but especially during this public emergency, consumers should be able to trust that health care treatments … are providing reliable and accurate results.”
Feuer noted the company’s description of itself in which it claims it focuses on investment and partnership with medical, scientific, nutritional, health and wellness markets. In a press release, the company also says it focuses on synthetic cannabinoid therapeutics, such as high-quality CBD products.
The city attorney said the U.S. Department of Defense coronavirus task force referred Applied Biosciences to his office to investigate.
Calls and emails to Applied Biosciences’ headquarters in New York were not immediately returned.
The case against Applied Biosciences is the first lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Joint Coronavirus Task Force during the pandemic, Lacey said.
Price gouging during the pandemic is another illicit activity Feuer said his office is targeting. Price gouging is raising the price of a good more than 10% during a state of emergency.
The City Council last week adopted an ordinance to extend the law to prohibit raising the price that much during the pandemic by using comparative prices. That way, a merchant can’t raise the price of a good just because they didn’t sell it prior to the emergency orders.
Feuer said his office has been working with Amazon to weed out people selling products on its platform at inflated prices, such as one person whom charges have been filed against for selling eight-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer for $54.
The penalties for each count of price gouging are up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
“The penalties are severe, the consequences of price gouging are severe, especially in this crisis,” Feuer said. “Attempting to take advantages of the fear and anxiety of the public is going to get a direct response from us.”
In another lawsuit announced last week against the company RootMD, which sold at-home coronavirus testing kits that were not approved by the FDA, Feuer said that company has paid back about $176,000 in restitution to about 800 customers.