FTC Accuses Supplement Makers of False Online Ads
The Federal Trade Commission yesterday announced a "crackdown" on six dietary supplement companies, charging the firms with making "false and potentially dangerous" claims about their products on the Internet, Reuters Health reports (Zwillich, Reuters Health, 6/14). According to the New York Post, the "virtual snake-oil salesmen" advertised their products as "cures" for a number of diseases, including cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease (Blomquist, New York Post, 6/15). Under consent decrees negotiated with the FTC, four companies agreed, without "admitting wrongdoing," to halt false advertising and offer refunds to consumers. In addition, the FTC signed a similar deal with MaxCell BioScience Inc. and fined the company $150,000 for selling products that allegedly "reversed the aging process." The FTC also filed a complaint in federal court against Western Dietary Products Co. for making false advertising claims and selling a device called the "Zapper Electrical Unit" to "treat and cure" Alzheimer's disease and AIDS (Gugliotta, Washington Post, 6/15). "Today's Internet is a vital health care resource. Unfortunately, the Internet is also a convenient medium for those who prey on sick and vulnerable consumers," FTC Chair Timothy Muris said (Ho, AP/Akron Beacon Journal, 6/15). FTC officials said that the six cases represented the "most egregious" of more than 1,200 "questionable" Web sites (Reuters Health, 6/14). In addition to economic fraud, FTC officials said they worry that "misleading" advertising could discourage individuals from seeking medical treatment or prompt them to use herbal supplements that may "interfere" with their prescription drug regimens (Winter, New York Times, 6/15).