This is the claim I saw on a poster in a store window this morning on my way to work. I don't know about you, but a lot of things make me feel better: a great game of squash, a piece of dark chocolate, holding a baby, taking ipubrofen when I have a headache, etc. However, this poster is advertising vitamins so my ad law brain was awhirl with questions. I was very interested to see that, according to the disclosure on the poster, the advertiser apparently conducted a robust clinical study (randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled) to support the "feel better" claim. Impressive.
This week at the NAD Conference, we heard from the ever-informative Lesley Fair from the Federal Trade Commission. She walked us through the FTC's cases announced since last year's NAD conference, and talked about the FTC's enforcement priorities. It was no surprise to hear from her that health claims remain a high priority for the FTC. And why? Because of cases like this one involving intravenous vitamin therapy marketed with some crazy aggressive claims by a different kind of marketer.
In that case, the FTC charged iV Bars, a marketer of intravenously injected therapy products (iV Cocktails), made available to consumers in clinics operated in several states, with making a range of deceptive and unsupported health claims about the products' ability to treat serious diseases, like cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and more. So, this company not only claimed that its mix of water and minerals could help consumers with serious diseases, but it did so without any scientific proof, much less a robust clinical study demonstrating the efficiacy of its product.
The proposed settlement order prohibits iV Bars from making the false or unsubstantiated claims that its iV Cocktails: 1) are an effective treatment for any of the diseases included in the complaint; 2) produce fast, lasting results; or 3) cure, mitigate, or treat any diseases, unless the claim is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The order also prohibits the company from making any express or implied health, safety, or efficacy claims unless they are not misleading and are supported by scientific evidence, as required by law.
In addition to agreeing to the proposed settlement, the company sent an email to purchasers of the company's "Myer Cocktail" notifying them that, contrary to the company’s marketing materials, studies have not shown that the product is an effective treatment for any disease and that consumers should consult their doctors.
Seeing a notice like that is no everyday occurrence. But it certainly makes me feel better.
The iV Cocktails, which were advertised as an alternative to traditional medical therapy, are actually a simple mix of water, vitamins, minerals, and herbs injected directly into the bloodstream for between $100 and $250 per “treatment.” Such therapy, sometimes referred to as “Intravenous Micro-Nutrient Therapy,” “Intravenous Vitamin Therapy,” and “Hydration Therapy,” has recently seen an increase in popularity throughout the country.