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FTC settles with companies over unproved weight-loss claims

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The marketers of four weight-control pills have agreed to pay a total of at least $25 million to settle allegations of deceptive advertising, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday

The four are Xenadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa and One-A-Day WeightSmart.

The FTC alleged that the companies' weight-loss and weight-control claims were not supported by evidence.

The companies also agreed to limit their advertising claims.

"You won't find weight loss in a bottle of pills that claims it has the latest scientific breakthrough or miracle ingredient," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras in a written statement. "Paying for fad science is a good way to lose cash, not pounds."

The money will be used for refunds, said FTC spokeswoman Jacqueline Dizdul. "They give back their ill-gotten gains," she said.

She said it was not surprising that many people were seduced into buying the products. Professionally produced advertisements ran in major magazines. In addition, "I think everyone holds out hope that there is a quick and easy way of doing things," she said.

"At the same time, we always encourage consumers to look at any claims like this with a healthy dose of skepticism."

Though the companies may continue to sell the products, they will not be making the same claims, Dizdul said.

In the case of Xenadrine EFX, two marketers of the pills will pay between $8 million and $12.8 million to settle claims that its weight-loss claims were false and unsubstantiated.

Xenadrine EFX contains green tea extract, caffeine and bitter orange. It was advertised in such publications as "People," "TV Guide," "Cosmopolitan" and "Men's Fitness."

False claims documented

According to the FTC's complaint, none of several studies showed Xenadrine EFX resulted in substantial weight loss and that endorsers who lost weight did so instead by engaging in diet and/or exercise programs. The endorsers were paid $1,000 to $20,000 for their testimonials, a fact that the company's advertisements did not disclose, the complaint said.

The seven marketers of CortiSlim and CortiStress will surrender a total of at least $12 million to settle charges that they claimed -- without substantiation -- that the products can cause weight loss and reduce the risk of illness, including osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

CortiSlim and CortiStress infomercials "were deceptively formatted to appear as talk shows rather than advertisements," the FTC said.

TrimSpa marketers will pay $1.5 million to settle FTC allegations that their weight-loss claims were unsubstantiated.

Ads for "TrimSpa Completely Ephedra Free Formula X32" featured testimonials, including one from actress Anna Nicole Smith, who credited the pills for a 69-pound loss over eight months.

Finally, the Bayer Corporation will pay a $3.2 million civil penalty to settle FTC allegations that advertisements for its One-A-Day WeightSmart multivitamins violated an earlier commission order requiring its health claims to be supported by evidence, the statement said.

The complaint alleges that Bayer Corporation marketed One-A-Day WeightSmart with unsubstantiated claims that it increases metabolism; enhances metabolism through its EGCG content; helps prevent some of the weight gain associated with a decline in metabolism in users over age 30; and helps users control their weight by enhancing their metabolism.

The FTC noted that the agreements "are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute admissions by the settling defendants of law violations."

Xenadrine EFX is one of four drugs whose marketers agreed to pay at least $25 million to settle allegations of fraudulent advertising.


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