In one part of a law enforcement sweep targeting dietary supplement marketers, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against multiple defendants that allegedly used misleading claims to convince consumers that their products can help treat—and even cure—individuals who are addicted to opiates, prescription pain medications, and illegal drugs including heroin.
Sunrise Nutraceuticals touted its Elimidrol dietary supplement as the "#1 opiate withdrawal supplement" that is "guaranteed to work," and help to "permanently overcome withdrawal—the first time" because of its proprietary blend of herbs and other compounds.
According to Sunrise, Elimidrol is non-addictive, non-habit forming, and has demonstrated a high success rate, as evidenced by purported testimonials from opiate-dependent customers. One testimonial on the company's website raved that Elimidrol "saved my life," and that the user "noticed within 30 minutes of the first dose that I was actually feeling pretty comfortable and I had a new sense of 'clarity' in me."
But the FTC said that Sunrise's claims are false and unsubstantiated, and requested that a Florida federal court halt the claims and order redress for consumers.
Concurrently, the Commission announced two partial settlements against marketers for making unsupported claims for weight loss supplements and sent 20 warning letters to companies that advertise and sell dietary supplements online for weight loss.
Health Nutrition Products and related defendants were the subjects of one of the settlements with the FTC in connection with unsubstantiated weight loss claims for a dietary supplement. In fact, three individual defendants agreed to refrain from selling any weight loss products, programs, and services. That settlement also included a $2.7 million judgment against repeat offender Crystal Ewing and her company, along with an order that prohibited future deceptive conduct. Additionally, a suspended monetary judgment that required the sale of certain assets was also assessed against another individual.
The other deal involved several companies and individuals targeted by the agency in a case against NPB Advertising for capitalizing on the green coffee bean diet fad with the Pure Green Coffee dietary supplement. In addition to a ban on the deceptive acts and practices described in the complaint, the agreement imposed a $30 million judgment, which will be suspended after the turnover of monies and sale of assets.
Finally, the Commission cautioned 20 companies that weight loss claims found on their websites are potentially misleading. "Your site contains claims of extraordinary weight loss that do not appear to be supportable by scientific evidence," the Commission wrote, describing the type of scientific evidence necessary to make such claims. The FTC's warning letters also expressed concern about the use of consumer testimonials on the websites. The agency declined to name the recipients.
To read the complaint in FTC v. Sunrise Nutraceuticals, click here.
To read the complaint and stipulated final judgment in FTC v. Ewing, click here.
To read the complaint and stipulated final judgment in FTC v. NPB Advertising, Inc., click here.
To read a warning letter from the Commission, click here.
Why it matters: In conjunction with the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies, the FTC has made dietary supplement manufacturers and advertisers a focal point for enforcement. Over the past year, the agency has taken actions involving dietary supplements ranging from those that promise to help consumers lose weight to products that claim to help children with speech disorders and those that claim to reverse gray hair.