The Federal Trade Commission has charged a supplier of HIV tests with falsely representing that its HIV tests accurately detected HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The company, Alfa Scientific Designs, Inc., has agreed to a stipulated preliminary injunction that, among other things, halts all sales of its HIV tests. According to the FTC, Alfa Scientific was the supplier of faulty HIV tests to Medimax, Inc. and its owner David M. Rothbart. Medimax was charged by the FTC last December for falsely representing on the Internet that its HIV tests accurately detected HIV. Medimax agreed to a preliminary injunction as well and is no longer marketing its test kits.
This is the third time the FTC has taken law enforcement action against a marketer of HIV tests. In addition to the Medimax case, on November 17, the agency announced the settlement of charges that Cyberlinx Marketing, Inc., of Las Vegas, Nevada, made false representations on the Internet that its HIV home test kits accurately detected HIV. Cyberlinx agreed to be banned from marketing any HIV test kits and to pay back the money it received from the sale of its kits.
"This case is especially troubling because the company's deceptive actions may have delayed HIV positive users of the test from seeking the medical treatment they need," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Companies that sell faulty HIV tests are putting people's lives in jeopardy -- and that's something the FTC will not tolerate."
According to the FTC, Alfa Scientific's Web site claimed that its HIV tests detected HIV antibodies in human whole blood or serum with "very high specificity and sensitivity." The tests were marketed and distributed and sold as "Alfa HIV-1/2 Rapid Tests." The Web site promoted the purchase of the HIV tests in "Bulk, 25-test-kit, or Single Kit Format," and invited interested parties to contact the company through the Web site, by facsimile, or by telephone. According to a report by the FTC's expert filed with the court, in most instances, when tested with HIV-positive whole blood samples, Alfa Scientific's tests produced false negative results. Alfa Scientific does not sell directly to consumers, the agency said, but sells to distributors like Medimax. The company is based in San Diego, California.
The complaint outlining the charges against Alfa Scientific alleges that the company falsely claims that its HIV tests accurately detect HIV infection, in violation of Section 5(a) and 12 of the FTC Act.
According to the stipulated preliminary injunction, Alfa Scientific is enjoined from engaging or assisting in any manner whatsoever, in the advertising or distribution of any HIV test. Alfa Scientific also is enjoined from making any material false or misleading statements in connection with the advertising or sale of HIV tests.
The complaint and stipulated preliminary injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on January 13, 2000. The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and stipulated order was 5-0.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court. The stipulated preliminary injunction does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and stipulated order are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 0023091)
(Case No. 00 CV 81 BTM NLS)