FTC Sues Over Ephedra

U.S. regulators said on Tuesday they had sued one marketer of the weight-loss supplement ephedra and settled charges against two others, accusing them of making bogus claims about the controversial stimulant.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it had challenged claims that the companies' ephedra -containing supplements would allow users to lose substantial weight without diet or exercise, and that the products were "perfectly safe" or had no side effects.

For additional information please visit the following MedicineNet.com areas:

Dennis Lee, M.D.
Medical Editor, MedicineNet.com

FTC takes action against three ephedra marketers

Last Updated: 2003-07-01 15:00:21 -0400

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators said on Tuesday they had sued one marketer of the weight-loss supplement ephedra and settled charges against two others, accusing them of making bogus claims about the controversial stimulant.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it had challenged claims that the companies' ephedra-containing supplements would allow users to lose substantial weight without diet or exercise, and that the products were "perfectly safe" or had no side effects.

Ephedra is a stimulant that has been marketed as a weight-loss aid, energy booster and sports-performance enhancer.

Earlier this year U.S. health officials warned against taking dietary supplements containing ephedra after it was cited in the death of a professional baseball player.

On Tuesday the FTC said it had settled cases against Health Laboratories of North America Inc. and USA Pharmacal Sales Inc. after the companies promised to stop making false and deceptive advertising claims.

FTC officials estimated that Health Laboratories sold about $35 million worth of weight-loss and other supplements, while Pharmacal sold about $9 million.

The companies also agreed to include warnings about the health risks of ephedra and certain other products, and to pay $370,000 in consumer redress, the FTC said.

Representatives of USA Pharmacal were not immediately available for comment. An attorney for Health Laboratories director Marc Kaplan called the settlement "fair." He said Kaplan had admitted no wrongdoing.

"Mr. Kaplan believes that he can move forward really with a true sense that he's cooperated with the FTC," said Kaplan's attorney, James Prochnower.

Meanwhile, FTC attorneys are pressing ahead with a lawsuit against two California men and three companies they control, charging that they also made false or unsubstantiated claims about ephedra-containing supplements sold under the names Zymax and MillinexES.

The FTC said it is seeking monetary civil penalties from Michael Levey and Gary Ballen and their companies. It's also seeking an injunction and consumer redress from all the defendants.

Levey and Ballen were not immediately available for comment.

Ephedra, derived from the Chinese herb ma huang, is an adrenaline-like stimulant affecting the heart and nervous system.

Manufacturers of the supplement have insisted their product is safe when taken as directed, but some consumer groups are lobbying to have ephedra products banned completely.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


Last Editorial Review: 7/2/2003