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FTC PROHIBITS FUTURE WEIGHT CONTROL CLAIMS WITHOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

FTC PROHIBITS FUTURE WEIGHT CONTROL CLAIMS WITHOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE as part of a settlement with two Scottsdale, Ariz. companies, Nutrition Research & Marketing Institution and Hi- Health Supermart Corporation, both headed by Simon Chalpin. The settlement, announced on Oct. 22 by the Federal Trade Commission, prohibits the defendants from making claims about "any weight- control product they market in the future without scientific evidence to back them up," and requires the firms to discontinue making certain weight loss claims about the diet pill HGH-3X. The two Arizona companies also agreed to pay $ 225,000 in redress for the allegedly "deceptive" marketing of HGH-3X. The settlement "would prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting the results of any test or study, and from falsely representing that any endorsement they use in marketing any weight control product represents the typical experience of those who use it," according to FTC, which said that it would use the $ 225,000 payment required by the proposed settlement "to provide refunds to consumers who purchased HGH-3X," if practical. Nutrition Research & Marketing and Hi-Health Supermart have marketed HGH-3X at $ 39.95 for 200 tablets. The settlement arose from FTC charges that Nutrition Research & Marketing and Hi-Health Supermart fraudulently promoted HGH-3X as a diet pill that would "stimulate the production of human growth hormone and help your fat burner got rid of those unwanted pounds." The claims were made in U.S. print and broadcast media, as well as in 30-minute infomercials. FTC also took issue with ads that suggested that HGH-3X "adjusts a consumer's metabolic rate enough to cause significant weight loss," "causes weight loss without the need to decrease caloric intake or increase exercise," and "causes a significant decrease in body fat." FTC asserted that "in fact, consuming HGH- 3X does not boost the user's metabolism, and cannot cause weight loss without dieting or exercise." "Representations that HGH-3X has been proven effective by scientific research and that an article in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that consuming HGH-3X effectively decreases body fat" are also false and misleading, FIC said, adding that consumer testimonials and endorsements featured in the companies' ads did "not reflect the typical weight-loss experience of consumers using the product." FTC called the HGH-3X settlement "another in a long series of FTC cases challenging false and unsubstantiated claims for diet products and programs." In September, FTC announced that it had settled similar charges with Nutri/System, Diet Center, and Physicians Weight Loss Centers. Litigation with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig is pending. Since 1991, FTC has brought 11 such cases against diet centers and diet drug manufacturers. As a result of its investigations into weight loss programs, FTC has developed a free consumer fact sheet titled, "The Facts About Weight Loss Products and Programs." In the brochure, FTC lists "a number of clues to fraud," including claims that a product is "miraculous," "magical," "mysterious" or "exotic." FIC also warns against advertising describing a product as a "breakthrough," and cautions consumers against "phony weight-loss devices." At an Oct. 14 Food & Drug Law Institute seminar, FTC Assistant Director for Advertising Practices Anne Maher reported that FTC was preparing an industry-wide "deceptive" advertising guidance to help companies determine what kinds of nutritional advertising would be considered suspect by the commission, and speculated that the guidance would be complete within one year ("The Tan Sheet" Oct. 18, P. 12).
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