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The U.S. supplement industry and false advertising claims

With an estimated population of around 65 million, individuals who make up the so-called baby boomer generation have been influential in growing the American economy and shaping U.S. culture. By the year 2029, as the last of the baby boomers turn age 65, individuals of this generation are expected to make up roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population.

With this aging population, economists are bracing for a surge in increased demand for products and services geared towards retirees and the elderly. While aging is an inevitable process, the U.S.’s youth-obsessed culture is consistently demanding products to help defy the effects of aging. Today, an individual who visits a pharmacy or big-box retailer is sure to find a plethora of products promising to improve how he or she looks, feels and even thinks.

Several distributors of one of these types of products, Procera AVH, were recently ordered to pay penalties in excess of $150 million for violating false advertising laws. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the defendants in the case "falsely claimed the pills were clinically proven to reverse 10 to 15 years of age-related memory loss and brain deterioration."

Questions and concerns over possible false advertising claims of similar all-natural and drug-free compounds have been raised within recent years as the U.S. supplement industry has enjoyed tremendous growth and success. Today, U.S. consumers spend billions of dollars on a variety of supplements that promise numerous unscientific and unproven health benefits and claims.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is tasked with policing the prescription and over-the-counter drug industries to ensure the stated benefits of these drugs are scientifically backed, supplements aren't regulated by the FDA. Consequently, consumers may continue to be misled by false advertising claims similar to those made by the distributors of Procera AVH.

Source: SCPR.org, "Firms fines $150M over false advertising of diet supplement," Justin Sullivan, July 7, 2015

Orange County Register, "False claims for brain supplement draw $152 million penalty from FTC," Bianca Almada, July 8, 2015

 

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