The Federal Trade Commission has charged a Switzerland-based company and its U.S. counterpart with making numerous unsubstantiated efficacy claims for a variety of dietary supplements and devices that they sell on the Internet. In its complaint filed in federal court, the Commission alleges that the defendants advertise that their products and programs can cure advanced and terminal cancers, AIDS, and other serious diseases. The FTC's complaint names Dr. Clark Research Association (DCRA), a California corporation that uses a San Diego, California, address; Dr. Clark Behandlungzentrum GMbH, a company based in Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and doing business as Dr. Clark Zentrum (DCZ), and their owner, David P. Amrein.
The products at issue are:
The FTC's action is part of "Operation Cure.All," a coordinated, ongoing and comprehensive law enforcement and consumer education effort with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and various state Attorneys General that began in 1997 to crack down on unscrupulous marketers who use the Internet to prey on the sickest and most vulnerable consumers.
"Zapping outlandish promises that appeal to health and safety concerns of U.S. consumers is one of our top priorities" said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Unfortunately, questionable products abound on the Web. The FTC, with its partners, will continue the fight to protect consumers from these compelling but deceptive health claims."
Said FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., "The FDA takes a dim view of devices that make phony claims to cure or treat serious disease or illness. Besides being a waste of money, such products can prevent the user from obtaining needed medical treatment. FDA will continue to monitor the Internet and other sources for devices that make false medical claims and work with the FTC to get them off the market."
According to the FTC, the defendants advertise and sell their products on the Internet at "www.drclark.net" and "www.drclark.com" The Web sites contains statements such as:
The FTC alleges that the defendants made numerous unsubstantiated claims about the Zapper, the Syncrometer, the 21 Day Program for Advanced Cancers, and the Herbal Parasite Cleanse, including through the use of testimonials. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants made unsubstantiated representations that:
The FTC charges that the defendants did not have a reasonable basis to substantiate the claims made in their advertisements.
The FTC is continuing its education campaign to alert consumers to health fraud online. Because promoters of fraudulent health care products often use similar claims and practices to lure consumers into buying their products, the FTC advises consumers to be suspicious of:
To ensure the safe use of supplements and other health-related products, consumers should let their health care provider know if they are using these products. Additional tips on buying healthcare products on the Internet and using supplements and other healthcare products are on the FTC's Virtual Health Treatments Web site, www.ftc.gov/health, and FDA's Buying Medicines and Medical Products Online Web site, www.fda.gov/oc/buyonline.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland, on January 8, 2003.
(FTC File No. 022-3051)
(Civil Action No. 1:03CV0054)