Herbalife And GNC on Watch as FTC Takes Action Against Dietary Supplement Marketer

Federal Trade CommissionFederal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop a dietary supplement marketer from making misleading claims that its product can help treat and even cure people who are addicted to opiates, including prescription pain medications and illegal drugs such as heroin.

Also today, the FTC announced two partial settlements against marketers accused of making unsupported claims for weight-loss supplements. The cases are part of a law enforcement sweep targeting illegal dietary supplement marketing by the FTC, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

“People looking for a dietary supplement to improve their health have to wade through a swamp of misleading ads,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Be skeptical of ads for supplements that claim to cure diseases, reverse the signs of aging, or cause weight loss without diet or exercise.”

A complete list of dietary supplement-related FTC actions taken over the past year can be found here, and includes cases against the sellers of products ranging from those falsely claiming to help users lose weight to those suggesting they can reverse gray hair, cure childhood speech disorders and other ailments, and improve cognitive function and memory.

According to the FTC’s complaint against Sunrise Nutraceuticals, LLC announced today, the company, based in Boca Raton, Florida, deceptively claims that its dietary supplement Elimidrol, a “proprietary blend” of herbs and other compounds, alleviates opiate withdrawal symptoms and increases a user’s likelihood of overcoming opiate addiction.

Sunrise allegedly ran advertising on its website targeting opiate-dependent consumers with claims that it is the “#1 opiate withdrawal supplement,” and that it is the only opiate withdrawal product “guaranteed to work.” Elimidrol purportedly is non-addictive, non-habit forming, and will help users “permanently overcome withdrawal — the first time.” It also claims a high-success rate among users, and that “the effects can be felt from the first dose.”

In addition, Sunrise promotes Elimidrol with testimonials from opiate-dependent customers. For example, one testimonial states, “I was introduced to Elimidrol and it saved my life. This is not an exaggeration, it SAVED my life.” The testimonialist goes on to say that she “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.”

The FTC’s complaint alleges, however, that Sunrise’s ads for Elimidrol are deceptive because they are false or unsubstantiated. An 8-ounce bottle of Elimidrol costs $75. In filing the complaint, the FTC is seeking a court order providing redress and preventing the company from making such claims unless they can be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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