A celebrity publicist has copped more than $26,000 in fines after allegedly advertising an expensive medical device and claiming it could prevent COVID-19.
Max Markson’s celebrity management company, Markson Sparks, has been issued two fines totalling $26,640 by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The company allegedly emailed subscribers to spruik the Bionic Air Plasma Medical Device, with the TSA claiming it was advertised the $1995 device could help prevent infection from coronavirus.
On the Bionic Air website, the device claims to “replicate nature’s beneficial negative ions of Oxygen at a size small enough to be inhaled into the lungs to enter that bloodstream for true biological benefit.”
The TGA claimed the way this device was allegedly promoted by Markson Sparks was in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 as claims in relation to preventing COVID-19 (and related terms) are restricted representations.
Markson Sparks also allegedly claimed, in the email to subscribers, that the medical device is safe for the elderly, which is also a breach of the act as it is unlawful to promote a therapeutic good as being safe, harmless or without side-effects.
Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, said false claims around COVID-19 prevention was a major concern for the TGA.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the TGA is determined to stamp out advertising which makes unlawful claims about the cure or prevention of COVID-19,” he said.
“Advertising targeting vulnerable groups, including seniors, is of particular concern to the TGA during these challenging times.”
Along with the fines, the TGA has informed Markson Sparks that the advertising in question must be immediately removed.
Markson has pushed back against the allegations, telling The Sydney Morning Herald that the TGA “jumped the gun”.
“The TGA has jumped the gun and acted recklessly with no investigation or contact whatsoever taking place,” he said in an email to the publication.
“At no stage has my client bionicair.com.au or myself claimed that the Bionic Air Plasma Medical Device can cure COVID-19.”
This comes after celebrity chef Pete Evans was slapped with $25,000 in fines after claiming a “BioCharger” device could be used against the coronavirus.
In an April 9 livestream on his Facebook page, Evans described the $14,990 machine as a “hybrid subtle energy revitalisation platform”.
“It’s programmed with a thousand different recipes and there’s a couple in there for the Wuhan coronavirus,” Evans said in the video.
The TGA said Evans claims the device could be used in relation to “Wuhan Coronavirus” had “no apparent foundation”.
“Any claim that references COVID-19 is a restricted representation under therapeutic goods legislation, and is of significant concern to the TGA given the heightened public concern about the pandemic,” the TGA said in a statement.