FTC Settlement Bans Marketer Behind ‘Fat Burner’ Diet Pills from Manufacturing, Marketing Weight-Loss Products
The former CEO and co-founder of an Atlanta-based marketing operation has agreed to settle FTC charges that he deceived consumers with promises that they would “Get High School Skinny” by taking Healthe Trim supplements that supposedly burned fat, increased metabolism, and suppressed appetite.
John Matthew Dwyer III, the co-founder of HealthyLife Sciences, LLC, has agreed to be banned from the weight-loss industry to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising.
Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences advertised that their Healthe Trim supplements – which were sold online and at CVS, GNC, and Walgreens for up to $65 for a month’s supply – would cause rapid and substantial weight loss of as much as 165 pounds, according to the FTC. HealthyLife Sciences sold an Original Formula that purportedly contained hoodia gordonii as well as formulas containing raspberry ketone, green coffee bean, and garcinia cambogia. The advertising relied heavily on consumer testimonials, which portrayed losing weight as easy.
“Losing weight is rarely easy, and it would be a miracle if a pill made it so,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers should be skeptical when a product like this one claims to make weight loss easy.”
In radio and television ads, Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences claimed Healthe Trim was clinically proven to cause weight loss, and would suppress users’ appetites and boost their metabolisms to help them lose weight without exercising or changing their daily routine. They used the tagline “Get High School Skinny,” and included testimonials from consumers who claimed that the weight was just “falling off.”
Under the settlements, Dwyer is banned from manufacturing and marketing weight-loss products. HealthyLife Sciences is banned from advertising that its products cause weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise; cause substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the user eats; cause permanent weight loss; block the absorption of fat or calories to enable the user to lose substantial weight; safely enable users to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks; cause substantial weight loss for all users; or cause substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin. The FTC has previously issued guidance that these “gut check” claims are always false when made for dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or patches, creams, wraps, and similar products worn on the body or rubbed into the skin.
The settlement with HealthyLife Sciences also requires that the company have two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trials to support other claims relating to weight loss, increased metabolism, or appetite suppression. Both Dwyer and HealthyLife Sciences are prohibited from claiming that any dietary supplement, food, or drug is effective unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up the claims. They also are prohibited from misrepresenting the results of any tests, studies, or research. And they are required to retain data from human clinical trials used to support their advertising claims.
Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising for weight-loss products and for products that claim to cure diseases. For more information, see: Weight Loss & Fitness and Miracle Health Claims. Publishers, broadcasters, and marketers should consult Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed administrative consent orders for public comment was 5-0.
The FTC will publish a description of the consent orders in the Federal Register shortly. The orders will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 14, 2014, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final. Interested parties can submit written comments electronically on Health Life Sciences or John Matthew Dwyer in paper form by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.
The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Strategy’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life.
NOTE: When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.