FTC Moves to Halt Deceptive Osteoporosis Claims
by Calcium Supplement Manufacturer

FTC News Release
August 19, 1994

In another in a series of cases targeting deceptive or misleading claims for nutritional supplements, the Federal Trade Commission has charged Metagenics, Inc., doing business as Ethical Nutrients, and its president, Jeffrey Katke, with using a host of unsubstantiated and misleading claims to market calcium supplement products sold under the name "Bone Builder." The challenged claims included allegedly unsupported representations that Metagenics' supplements are superior to other forms of calcium in preventing or treating bone ailments. The FTC also alleged that Metagenics used the name "Bone Builder" in a misleading manner.

The charges are made in an administrative complaint, announced today. The FTC is seeking an order to halt the allegedly deceptive claims, to require substantiation for claims that any food, drug or supplement product will treat or cure any disease or condition, and to prevent Metagenics from using the "Bone Builder" name in a misleading manner.

Metagenics is based in San Clemente, CA.

According to the complaint, advertisements for Metagenics "Bone Builder" contain statements such as, "Bone Builder can restore lost bone and has the clinical evidence to prove it," "[n]o other product in the United States is as effective at preventing bone loss," and "[m]icrocrystalline hydroxyapatite halted bone loss, decreased pain and increased bone thickness when taken in adequate amounts over long periods of time, a record no calcium supplement could achieve."

The FTC charged that, through the use of these advertisements and others cited in the complaint, Metagenics has represented that "Bone Builder," or one of its ingredients, microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, builds bone, restores lost bone, halts bone loss, reduces or eliminates pain associated with bone ailments and is superior to other forms of calcium.

In fact, the FTC complaint states, Metagenics did not have adequate evidence to support these statements. In addition, the company's representations that scientific research proved their claims were false and misleading, the complaint alleges.

The proposed order would require that Metagenics base its advertising claims for "Bone Builder" or any other food or dietary supplement on competent and reliable scientific evidence, would prohibit false and misleading claims about the conclusions of any test or study, and would prohibit the deceptive use of the "Bone Builder" name.

The Commission vote to issue the complaint was 4-1, with Commissioner Deborah K. Owen dissenting. In her dissenting statement, Owen said: "Although I believe that certain of Metagenics' claims were unsubstantiated and, therefore, I would have been inclined to support a more narrow complaint, I must dissent from today's Commission action because I believe that, on balance, it runs contrary to the public interest. I fear that the breadth of the allegations in the administrative complaint may convey the wrong message to the public and thereby discourage not only truthful and nondeceptive claims about calcium supplements but, ultimately, their use … In taking this action today, I believe that the Commission has essentially ceded its authority to the FDA.…"

A hearing on the case will be scheduled at a later date.

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