FTC targets online hormone replacement sellersThe U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed complaints against seven online sellers of alternative hormone replacement therapy products, alleging that the Web sites made health claims for their natural progesterone creams without supporting evidence.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed complaints against seven online sellers of alternative hormone replacement therapy products, alleging that the Web sites made health claims for their natural progesterone creams without supporting evidence.
Six of the sellers have signed consent orders barring them from making unsubstantiated claims in the future, the FTC announced Friday. The seventh Web site did not respond to repeated efforts to contact it by the FTC staff, and its case will be heard by an administrative law judge, the agency said.
"Millions of women seek safe, effective alternatives to hormone replacement therapy," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "These companies violated their trust by making claims they just couldn't prove."
The sellers claimed that their natural progesterone creams were effective in preventing, treating, or curing osteoporosis; were effective in preventing or reducing the risk of estrogen-induced uterine cancer; and did not increase the user's risk of developing breast cancer, or were effective in preventing or reducing the user's risk of developing breast cancer.
The FTC complaints, filed earlier this year, alleged that the sellers did not have substantiation for these claims and, in some cases, misrepresented that clinical testing proved the products were effective.
The products allegedly sold without proper health-claim substantiation included: ProBalance transdermal cream; Elation Therapy Natural Progesterone Cream; Preserve Progesterone Cream; Restored Balance progesterone cream; Serenity for Women Natural Progesterone Cream; Nature's Precise Cream; Eternal Woman Progesterone Cream.
The consent orders settle the FTC's charges against the following people and businesses:
-- Lawrence A. Jordan and Stephanie L. Jordan, doing business as Springboard and Pro Health Labs of Spring Valley, California;
-- Elation Therapy Inc. and Robert Rutledge, an officer of the company based in Marietta, Georgia;
-- Merilou Barnekow, doing business as Women's Menopause Health Center of Surfside Beach, Texas;
-- The Green Willow Tree LLC of Asheville, North Carolina, and manager Robert Burns;
-- Health Science International Inc., of Port Orange, Florida, and David Martin, an officer there;
-- Shelly Black, doing business as Progesterone Advocates Network of Trabuco Canyon, California.
Under the terms of the orders, sellers are required to have reliable scientific evidence substantiating claims about the health benefits, performance, safety and side effects of any dietary supplement drug, or health-related service. In addition, the orders prevent the sellers from misrepresenting the existence, validity or interpretations of any research.
Finally, the orders contain 20-year record-keeping provisions designed to ensure the sellers comply with their terms.
The charges against Herbs Nutrition Corp. of Torrance, California, and Syed M. Jafry, an officer there, have not been settled, and the case will be tried by an FTC administrative law judge.
The FTC is not aware of any competent and reliable scientific evidence to support claims that natural progesterone products are safe, or that they are effective in preventing osteoporosis, increasing bone density or preventing, treating, or curing cancer, heart disease or other diseases, the agency said. When evaluating health-related claims for any product, consumers should talk to their primary-care doctor or pharmacist, the FTC recommended.
The FTC staff identified the respondents through an Internet search of Web sites advertising products that claimed they were natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy. The FTC sent warning letters to 34 Web site operators informing them that they must have reliable scientific evidence to support any health-related claims made for their products. The FTC advised the marketers to revise or delete any false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims.
Twenty-seven of the 34 Web sites modified the health claims about hormone replacement therapy after the FTC letters.