The Federal Trade Commission today, for the first time, charged a marketer and seller of intravenously injected therapy products (iV Cocktails) with making a range of deceptive and unsupported health claims about their ability to treat serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and congestive heart failure.
The proposed FTC order settling the charges prohibits the company, which operates a string of clinics in north Texas; New Braunfels, Texas; and Vail, Colorado, and its owner from making such claims, unless they can be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The iV Cocktails, which were advertised as an alternative to traditional medical therapy, are actually a simple mix of water, vitamins, minerals, and herbs injected directly into the bloodstream for between $100 and $250 per “treatment.” Such therapy, sometimes referred to as “Intravenous Micro-Nutrient Therapy,” “Intravenous Vitamin Therapy,” and “Hydration Therapy,” has recently seen an increase in popularity throughout the country.
“This enforcement action should send a clear message to the burgeoning iV therapy industry and sellers of all healthcare products,” said Joe Simons, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “Health claims must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
What the FTC Did to Protect Consumers
According to the FTC’s complaint, A & O Enterprises Inc., doing business as iV Bars Incorporated and iVBars, and its owner and operator Aaron K. Roberts deceptively advertised, promoted, and sold a line of iV Cocktails, including one called the Myers Cocktail, to consumers seeking alternative treatments for major diseases. In marketing its products online, the iV Bars respondents (iV Bars) allegedly made a range of unsupported health and efficacy claims for the treatments.
Beginning in mid-2015, iV Bars used its website and social media to advertise a variety of iV Cocktails to consumers, designed to be administered directly into the bloodstream, typically through a vein in the arm. Each iV Cocktail costs $100 or more per session.
iV Bars claimed the iV Cocktails could treat serious diseases including cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and neurodegenerative disorders. iV Bars also claimed that their iV Cocktails produced fast, lasting results, and in many instances, were more effective and better-tolerated than conventional medical therapies.
The complaint alleges that iV Bars’ health treatment and efficacy claims either were false or not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also alleges that iV Bars made false establishment claims that iV Cocktails were clinically or scientifically proven to provide the health benefits advertised.
What the Settlement Means
The proposed settlement order, which is subject to public comment, prohibits iV Bars from making the false or unsubstantiated claims that its iV Cocktails: 1) are an effective treatment for any of the diseases included in the complaint; 2) produce fast, lasting results; or 3) cure, mitigate, or treat any diseases, unless the claim is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The order also prohibits iV Bars from making any express or implied health, safety, or efficacy claims unless they are not misleading and are supported by scientific evidence.
In connection with the advertising, marketing, promotion, or sale of any covered product, the order prohibits iV Bars from misrepresenting that it has had medical professionals test or approve the product, or that it has a research facility. The order also prohibits iV Bars from misrepresenting the existence or conclusions of any scientific evidence, or that a product, including iV Cocktails, is scientifically or clinically proven to produce any benefit.
Finally, the order requires iV Bars to preserve any underlying scientific data and documents used to support health claims made for any product.
Notice to Consumers About the Myers Cocktail
In addition to agreeing to the terms of the proposed order, on September 4, 2018, iV Bars emailed a notice to consumers who bought the Myers Cocktail before the FTC-challenged health claims were eliminated from the company’s advertising.
The notice, signed by respondent Roberts, makes clear to consumers that:
- Contrary to the company’s marketing materials, studies have not shown that the Myers Cocktail is an effective treatment for any disease, including nine specific diseases, ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis and diabetes;
- Consumers should consult a doctor or other healthcare provider before using any alternative disease treatments;
- Consumers should talk with their doctor or healthcare provider before stopping any prescribed treatments; and
- It is important for consumers to talk with their healthcare provider to ensure all aspects of their medical treatment work well together.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly.
The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 22, 2018, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent agreement final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative 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. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $41,484.
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