The Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) keeps a watchful eye over advertisement claims regarding alleged COVID-19 treatments that exploit the vulnerability of consumers in the current pandemic. The GVH initiated an investigation against Max-Immun Kft. in May (VJ/22/2020), because of its advertisement of Vargapeptide product stating that the cosmetic skin care spray containing proinsulin C-peptide was suitable for the treatment of several diseases such as COVID-19, cancer and diabetes.

The GVH, as a provisional protective measure, in its decision dated 27 July 2020 (VJ/22/2020/63) prohibited the company from advertising any of its cosmetic products containing C-peptide until the end of the investigation. The investigation is still pending.

In its advertisements, the company gave the impression that C-peptide is an effective treatment for several diseases and disorders, including various cancers, autism, diabetes, and COVID-19. The ads claimed inter alia, that the product was "excellent for the treatment of coronavirus with a severe outcome" and "the first foreign patient infected with coronavirus in a German-speaking area became asymptomatic within 30 hours of using proinsulin C-peptide."

Consumers searching for medicinal products represent a special, financially and psychologically vulnerable group, and they react much more sensitively to advertisements that promise to heal in the hope of recovery. Therefore, a false info would cause consumers to take a transactional decision that they would not have taken otherwise.

The GVH decided to apply a preliminary protective measure and obliged Max-Immun Kft. to remove all available advertisements belonging to the Vargapeptide product family and for any of its other products that contain proinsulin C-peptide. The measure is effective until the conclusion of the GVH’s investigation.

The GVH warns that consumers need to be careful not only with treatments for COVID-19 but also with at home coronavirus tests. Many company offer rapid tests – usually at high prices – but the GVH advises consumers to be careful. If a rapid test – according to its instructions – is intended for self-testing, i.e. for home use, then, in accordance with the applicable legislation, its manufacturer shall, before placing the test on the market, obtain a certification from the notified body. As the minimum duration of this procedure is 6 months, it is likely that there are no coronavirus rapid tests intended for self-testing on the market in Hungary with this type of certificate. In the case of certified products, in addition to the CE marking, the four-digit number used to identify the certification body must also be provided. Furthermore, the GVH also points out that products mentioned above are considered as medical devices therefore, they may only be sold in specialised, licensed shops or pharmacies and cannot marketed in web shops.

The full GVH’s decision (VJ/22/2020/63) on the preliminary protective measure is available here (only in Hungarian), the related press release is available here (in English) and the GVH’s information notice regarding rapid tests here (in English).