CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Unsupported Weight Loss Claims Continue to Trigger FTC Enforcement

Weight loss claims continue to trigger enforcement by FTC for false and deceptive advertising.

The FTC was active in 2012 against a variety of manufacturers making unsupported weight loss claims.  This includes a diet plan marketer (Medifast Inc.) which was ordered to pay a $3.7 million penalty over claims for meal replacement products.

Medifast allegedly violated an earlier FTC settlement order.  The FTC Press Release states:

Subsidiary of Diet Plan Marketer Medifast Inc. to Pay $3.7 Million to Settle FTC Charges

Jason Pharmaceuticals sells Medifast-brand low-calorie meal substitutes.  Its most advertised plan is the Medifast “5 and 1” plan that consists of 800-1,000 calories per day.  Filed on the FTC’s behalf by the Department of Justice, the complaint against Jason Pharmaceuticals alleges that the company made unsupported representations since at least November 2009 in radio, television, Internet, and print advertisements that consumers using Medifast programs and products would lose two to five pounds each week. 

Advertisement for Medifast: “Why Medifast? Three great reasons. You can use up to 2 to 5 pounds a week using Medifast” showing three women’s before and after photos.The company also represented that the experiences of consumer endorsers featured in the advertisements were typical, and that consumers would lose more than 30 pounds, according to the complaint.

One such ad stated:
“Why Medifast?  Three great reasons.
Cynthia Lujan lost 73 lbs on Medifast! Cindy Daniels lost 43 lbs on Medifast!
Jennifer Lilley lost 70 lbs on Medifast!
You can lose up to 2 to 5 pounds per week on Medifast.”

Under the new settlement order announced today, Jason Pharmaceuticals is prohibited from misrepresenting that consumers who use any low-calorie meal replacement program, including the Medifast “5 and 1” plan, can expect to achieve the same results that an endorser does, or can lose a particular amount of weight or maintain the weight loss.  Such representations must be non-misleading and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence that consists of at least one adequate and well-controlled human clinical study of the low-calorie meal replacement program, or a study that follows a protocol detailed in the settlement order.

Under the settlement order, the company also is prohibited from making any other representation about the health benefits, safety, or side effects of any low-calorie meal replacement program, unless the representation is non-misleading and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence that is generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate results.

The company also is prohibited from misrepresenting that any doctor, health professional, or endorser recommends a weight-loss product, program, service, drug, or dietary supplement.

Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising claims for weight loss.  For more information, see the FTC’s consumer education piece:  Who Cares:  Weight Loss Promises.  

The FTC cares about weight loss promises and is constantly scanning the Internet for violators.  If your company has a weight loss product or claim, be sure to seek legal counsel regarding FDA and FTC legal and regulatory issues.  Our FDA and FTC legal team can review your marketing copy, including Web copy, to counsel you on compliance issues.  The Michael H Cohen Law Group has experience in FDA and FTC legal issues, including helping companies develop pro-active advertising and marketing campaigns, while understanding the legal boundaries that can lead to enforcement actions.  Contact the Michael H Cohen Law Group for your healthcare legal and regulatory needs today.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173