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FTC Fines Diet Pill Makers Millions for Bogus Claims


WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it fined four makers of over-the-counter weight-loss products more than million for false advertising, including a .2 million civil penalty against Bayer for claims made for One-A-Day Weight Smart.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 -- The Federal Trade Commission said today that it fined four makers of over-the-counter weight-loss products more than million for false advertising, including a .2 million civil penalty against Bayer for claims made for One-A-Day Weight Smart.

FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said the Bayer fine was the largest civil penalty ever levied by the agency.

She added that none of the four products involved -- One-A-Day Weight Smart, Xenadrine EFX, Cortislim, and TrimSpa -- posed a health risk to users. None was removed from store shelves.

The Bayer settlement, which was filed yesterday in U.S. Court in the District of New Jersey, came after Bayer had violated an earlier FTC order directing it to cease what Majoras said were bogus weight loss claims for its Weight Smart product, which added green tea extract to a standard multivitamin compound.

At a news conference here, Majoras singled out one Bayer ad as particularly egregious.

The ad recommended one exercise -- lift, twist and bend -- which Majoras said was explained as "lift the bottle, twist the cap, and bend your wrist to take the pill."

Because it is a civil penalty, the .2 million collected from Bayer will go to the U.S. Treasury, but the million to .8 million collected from Cytodyne L.L.C., maker of Xenadrine EFX, and a total of million collected from Window Rock, which makes Cortislim, will be used to fund a consumer refund program.

She said the FTC has already collected those fines, but is still working out the details for the refund program and she advised interested consumers to regularly check the FTC Web site (www.ftc.gov) for more announcements.

Nutramerica Corp, which makes, TrimSpa, was fined .5 million.

The TrimSpa marketing campaign featured endorsements by tabloid celebrity Anna Nicole Smith, a point emphasized by Majoras at the press conference.

Majoras noted that all testimonials and endorsements, by celebrities or not, should be regarded with skepticism because the spokespersons are not only paid by the supplement makers, but they often are also supplied with diet coaches and personal trainers in order to guarantee weight loss.

She said that as many as 70 million Americans need to lose weight, but added that the only proven weight loss method was diet and exercise.

Majoras said one reason that Americans are so willing to spend money on diet pills is that that they "believe what they read or see on television."

The products singled out by the FTC today were advertised in People, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, and Men's Fitness magazines, she said.

At the press conference, Majoras issued a plea to media companies to refuse advertisements from diet pill makers who include any one of seven "red flag" claims that she said "are just never true."

Those claims are that the product:

  • Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for four weeks or more without dieting.
  • Causes substantial weight loss regardless of calories consumed.
  • Causes permanent weight loss even if one stops using it.
  • Blocks absorption of fat or calories.
  • Enables users to lose more than three pounds a week for more than four weeks.
  • Causes substantial weight loss for all users.
  • Causes substantial weight loss by wearing it or by rubbing it into the skin.
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