FTC’s Annual Report on Health-Related Advertising

When you read an enticing ad for a weight loss product that effortlessly melts away fat, bear in mind, before you get out your credit card, that the product may be running a few steps ahead of the law. Never assume, just because the ad is out there in public, that the product really works.

Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its annual report, FTC Highlights, covering a range of activity by the federal agency charged with protecting consumers and promoting competition.

Two sections of the report might be of particular interest to medical consumers: “Containing Health Care and Drug Costs,” and “Challenging Deceptive Advertising and Marketing.”

As noted on FDA Law Blog, “[T]he FTC remains as focused as ever on health-related advertising – especially where advertising allegedly promotes products for weight loss or disease treatment or prevention.”

A summary of significant advertising matters litigated or settled by the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) is included in the report, and, as usual, big players last year were advertisers of weight-loss products. Products that purported to treat and/or prevent disease-food and dietary supplements, toning sneakers and smartphone apps and exercise equipment-also made their legal mark.

As Law Blog notes, a settlement over advertising for toning sneakers was the second highest amount: $40 million; a settlement over alleged order violations by a weight-loss marketer was third: $3.7 million. To satisfy the FTC, health-related product claims must show reliable, relevant supporting science.

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