An underworld of quack doctors have been exploiting the coronavirus pandemic and making money selling fake coronavirus cures.
Investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas goes undercover in Ghana, exposing a Covid-19 scam said to be worth tens of thousands of dollars. WHO estimates 100,000 people die as a consequence of fake medicines every year in Africa.
Posing as the brother of a man infected with the deadly coronavirus, Anas sets out to find so-called cures, to expose the men who sell them, and to test the liquids for potentially dangerous and toxic ingredients.
The investigation focuses on two case studies: the so-called “Abdellah brothers” and COA FS.
The Abdellah brothers
Dr Abdellah Jr and Dr Abdellah Sr are the masterminds of a Covid-19 scam said to be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
- During lockdown, they produced hundreds of bottles of a product labelled “Covid Cure.” It has a fake FDA number on its label.
- They claimed people took their children out of hospital quarantine to take their drug. They also claimed to be actively treating a number of coronavirus patients.
- They attempted to sell our undercover team 100 bottles of their concoction for 150,000 cedis [almost $26,000 USD].
- We tested their concoction with the Ghana Standards Authority. It failed to meet the standards for human consumption and was contaminated with bacteria, mould and traces of phosphine. These can all be dangerous depending on the dosage.
- The two men are currently being questioned by the FDA.
When we sent them our allegations they told the BBC they are in the process of licencing their product and that it is for testing purposes only. They denied selling it to anybody.
COA FS is registered as a food supplement, licenced for general welfare. There is no regulatory basis for it to be marketed as a cure or a treatment for any disease in Ghana. Despite this, the creator of the product, Samuel Ato Duncan, has repeatedly claimed it can treat various diseases.
After initially announcing COA FS is a “potential cure for coronavirus” in March 2020, Duncan reversed his stance on 15 March – issuing a statement claiming the product “is not a cure for coronavirus.”
- The investigation found that a COA FS agent, Kafui Alornu, continued to market the drug as a cure for the virus after this disclaimer.
- On 16 April 2020, he sold a bottle of COA FS to our undercover reporters and told them it can “heal” and “cure” coronavirus patients. He gave us instructions on how to administer the product for this purpose.
- We tested two samples of COA FS which we bought with the Ghana Standards Authority, which is ISO certified and one of the best laboratories in the country. The samples failed to meet the standards for human consumption. They were found to be contaminated with quantities of mould which were “too numerous to be counted.” There were also traces of phosphine in the product. Depending on how much is consumed, these contaminants have the potential to cause ill health.
- The test results, on two samples, are not definitive. Further tests will be needed to assess the safety of the product.
- we contacted COA drugs and Duncan but they did not provide a substantive response to the allegations.