FTC to refund $5.5m to consumers for supplement maker's 'false claims'

FTC to refund $5.5m to consumers for supplement maker's 'false claims'A major marketer of dietary supplements has agreed to refund consumers a total of $5.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission accusations that it falsely claimed its products could help buyers lose weight and treat or prevent colds, flu and allergies.

The proposed settlement was the agency's second today that questions product claims. Earlier in the day, the FTC spanked food giant Nestle for making health claims it couldn't back up about its Boost Kid Essentials drinks.

Representatives for Iovate Health Science U.S.A. and two affiliated Canadian companies have already signed off on the settlement, which the FTC will file in U.S. District Court in western New York. As part of the settlement, the companies do not admit to any liability.

The dietary supplements Accelis, nanoSLIM, Cold MD, Germ MD and Allergy MD -- all sold over the Internet and in retail stores -- were advertised on TV, websites and in national magazines. Some of the ads depicted white-coated people representing doctors who claimed the products' effectiveness was clinically proven.

Other ads proclaimed consumers could "lose 32 lbs. fast" with nanoSLIM or one to two pounds per week with Accelis. The FTC complaint alleges those claims were false and unsubstantiated. The agency also alleges that Allergy MD Rapid-Tabs was falsely advertised as "homeopathic," a type of alternative medicine that prescribes giving patients highly diluted doses of whatever substance might be causing their problem. Administering low doses of pollen to treat hay fever is an example.

As part of the settlement, Iovate agrees not to advertise its products as being effective in diagnosing, curing, treating or preventing any disease unless the claim is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Iovate also agrees to drop saying Alergy MD is homeopathic or claiming its products cause weight loss or rapid weight loss unless backed by at least two clinical studies.

A year ago, Iovate recalled its Hydroxycut weight loss products due to FDA concerns about reports of liver damage.

While FDA approval is general not required to comply with FTC rules, the agency says it determined in this case that requiring FDA pre-approval would make the settlement easier to enforce.

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