California; Regulators Sue Diet-Pill Vendors; The Federal Trade Commission alleges that marketers made false claims about the widely advertised CortiSlim.
Federal regulators said Tuesday that they had sued the marketers of CortiSlim, a widely advertised dietary supplement , alleging that they made false claims about its ability to help people swiftly shed pounds. The Federal Trade Commission lawsuit charges that Window Rock Enterprises Inc. of Brea and Infinity Advertising Inc. of Anaheim made "deceptive efficacy claims" about CortiSlim in broadcast and print ads, infomercials and on websites. The suit also alleges that the companies made false or unsubstantiated claims about CortiStress, a product that is no longer on the market, as a way to prevent or cut the risk of a wide range of ailments, including obesity, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the suit contends, the defendants produced infomercials intended to appear to be episodes of a talk show called "Breakthroughs" rather than paid commercial programming.
The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, asks that an unspecified amount of money be refunded to consumers who bought the two products.
The assertions made about CortiSlim "fly in the face of reality," Lydia B. Parnes, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "No pill can replace a healthy program of diet and exercise."
Marc Ullman, an attorney for Window Rock, said the company had signed an agreement with the FTC to stop any "offensive advertising." He said the marketing claims that prompted the agency to file suit resulted from overenthusiasm.
"This was a company very excited about a new product in an area where they didn't have vast amounts of experience," he said. As Window Rock began to better understand the standards for marketing such products, he said, it started modifying its ads, even before it was contacted by the FTC.
Under the agreement with the FTC, advertising for CortiSlim, pitched on its website at $49.99 for a one-month supply, "will focus on lifestyle, diet, exercise, stress management, nutrition and supplementation," Ullman said.
Window Rock is working with the FTC to resolve issues relating to "claims the company previously made" in its CortiSlim ads, the company said in a statement, which said the agency's complaint focused "solely on the language and type of claims made in CortiSlim's advertising, not on the safety of the product."
"Quickly resolving these issues is the best course of action that ensures our ability to continue marketing and distributing products that benefit the health of the American public," Window Rock President Stephen Cheng said in the statement.
The Food and Drug Administration has also taken regulatory action against Window Rock, sending the company a warning letter Aug. 19 that said Window Rock was violating federal law by making unsubstantiated claims about CortiSlim, including that it "eliminates cravings" and "controls appetite."
According to the FTC suit, the CortiSlim ads made false or unsubstantiated claims, maintaining that virtually anyone taking the pill would lose 10 to 50 pounds, dropping as many as 4 to 10 pounds a week over multiple weeks. The suit says the ads asserted that the supplement was effective at trimming the abdomen and thighs.
The suit says that in infomercials featuring a CortiSlim spokesman, Gregory Cynaumon, and its "product formulator," Shawn Talbott, viewers were told that persistently elevated levels of cortisol, a hormone released under stress, was the underlying cause of weight gain. By reducing and controlling cortisol levels, the infomercials and other advertisements maintained, CortiSlim prompted substantial weight loss -- a claim the FTC says is unproven.
The agency said Tuesday that the CortiSlim suit underscored the FTC's "continuing concern about the use of [a] deceptive format in infomercials."
It also said that in a related development, it had begun sending warning letters to more than 25 website operators and others making claims that the products they market will prompt weight loss, prevent disease or provide other health benefits by affecting cortisol levels.
"Consumers rely on the claimed benefits of a product, and we owe it to them that such claims be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence," said Dr. Lester M. Crawford, acting FDA commissioner.
Window Rock has about five employees, Ullman said. Infinity Advertising has two employees, according to Dun & Bradstreet. Cynaumon is Infinity's president.
Taken from the LA Times.