Bayer, Others Settle With U.S. Over Weight-Loss Ads

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Jan 04 - Bayer AG and several smaller companies agreed to pay the U.S. government almost $26 million to settle allegations of false weight-loss advertising claims, the Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday.

The settlements involve Bayer's One-A-Day WeightSmart multi-vitamin, as well as the diet pills CortiSlim, TrimSpa and Xenadrine EFX, which are made and sold by other companies.

"You're not going to find weight loss in a bottle of pills," FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras told reporters. "These ads are encouraging consumers to postpone the tougher choices that have to be made when one wants to lose weight."

In the case of Bayer, the company will pay a $3.2 million civil penalty to settle FTC allegations that ads for One-A-Day WeightSmart multivitamins violated an earlier agency order requiring all health claims for One-A-Day brand vitamins to be supported by scientific evidence.

One-A-Day WeightSmart contains epigallocatechin gallate, a green tea extract, which Bayer ads claimed could help increase the body's metabolism to control weight, the FTC said.

In a statement, Bayer said its product provides "safe and effective nutritional support to those who are watching their weight." The company said it "strongly disagrees" with the FTC's description of the product as weight-loss pills.

The FTC also said two marketers of diet pill Xenadrine EFX -- RTC Research & Development and Robert Chinery Jr. -- will pay up to $12.8 million to settle allegations that the product's weight-loss claims were false and unsubstantiated.

Xenadrine EFX contains green tea extract and bitter orange, and ads claimed the product was clinically proven to cause rapid and substantial weight loss.

However, the FTC alleged that in one of these studies, subjects taking Xenadrine EFX lost an average of only 1.5 pounds over the 10-week study, while a control group taking a placebo lost an average of 2.5 pounds over the same period.

The agency also said that consumer endorsers featured in ads were paid up to $20,000 for their appearances after losing weight with rigorous diet or exercise programs.

In another case, seven marketers of CortiSlim and CortiStress agreed to pay an $8.4 million settlement, the FTC said.

Nationwide ads for CortiSlim falsely claimed it could cause rapid and permanent weight loss, while CortiStress claimed it could reduce the risk of osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and heart disease, the FTC said. The companies settling included Window Rock Enterprises Inc. and Infinity Advertising Inc.

Marketers of another diet pill, TrimSpa, agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement, the FTC said.

Ads for TrimSpa claimed it caused rapid and substantial weight loss and that one of its ingredients, Hoodia gordonii, suppressed appetite. In one ad, celebrity Anna Nicole Smith claimed to have lost 69 pounds in eight months by using the diet pill.

The marketers involved in the TrimSpa settlement are Goen Technologies Corp., Nutramerica Corp., TrimSpa, Inc., and Alexander Szynalski.

Source: Medscape