Companies that engage in price fixing for public health products necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus could face criminal prosecution, the Department of Justice warned on Tuesday.
The warnings are part of an increased effort by the U.S. government to ensure that products such as face masks, respirators and sterile gloves are available to federal, state and local health authorities, private healthcare workers and the general public who continue to grapple with the growing spread of the virus.
“The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, health care providers, or the American people during this crucial time,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “I am committed to ensuring that the department’s resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public.”
As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 22 deaths in the U.S. from the virus and at least 565 other cases around the country.
The DOJ began investigating alleged price gouging and false advertising of health products aimed at battling coronavirus earlier this week after the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission alerted seven companies on Monday about their sales of questionable products.
The Department has also created a Procurement Collusion Strike Force to oversee the sale of health products to federal, state and local agencies.