Natural Innovations, Inc., company president Dr. William S. Gandee, and World Media T.V., Inc., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges stemming from the advertising and sale of "The Stimulator," a purported pain relief device widely advertised in an infomercial titled "Saying No To Pain." According to the FTC, the infomercial advertised without adequate substantiation that the Stimulator effectively relieves virtually all types of pain and provides immediate, long-term pain relief superior to that provided by medications and other treatments. Proposed agreements to settle the FTC’s charges would require the respondents to have scientific proof to back up any pain relief or other health or medical benefit claims they make in the future.
"Unsubstantiated pain relief claims in these ads are of serious concern," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Millions of Americans who suffer from different types of chronic or recurring pain, desperately search for relief. Consumers who bought the Stimulator believing these extravagant promises may have wasted their money, and worse, missed out on more effective treatments. The FTC will continue to be vigilant in requiring solid scientific support for health and safety claims."
Natural Innovations, Inc. is headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Dr. Gandee, an Akron-based chiropractor, is president of Natural Innovations and appeared on the infomercial. World Media T.V., based in Carlsbad, California, creates, produces, and distributes advertising, including infomercials. The separate FTC complaint naming World Media in connection with this case alleges that the company directly participated in the creation and dissemination of the "Say No to Pain" infomercial on behalf of Natural Innovations.
The Stimulator, which sold for about $80, emits a weak electric spark when activated. Users are instructed to "touch the tip of the STIMULATOR to the general area in which you feel pain" and depress a plunger to generate electric sparks. The infomercial, hosted by television personality Lee Meriwether, featured endorsements by daredevil Evel Knievel, former basketball great Bill Walton, and several consumers who had used the Stimulator.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the infomercial contained statements such as:
- "The pain is so excruciating and the relief is so wonderful. I mean, it’s like no aspirin, no pain medication, no nothing you can take gives you that instant relief. I mean I’m talking instant. Within minutes I’m back to doing whatever I was doing before."
- "And the lower back, it’s unreal how it worked down there. Because, like, my low back on the one side has always bothered me. And I zap it and it’s like it relieves it, you know? It’s like taking back ten years on my body. This is something that works on me."
- "Davrocets and Darvons and codeine. Tylenol with codeine. And since I’ve been introduced to this, I haven’t used any of it."
The FTC complaints allege that, through these and other statements, the respondents have made the following claims:
- Use of the Stimulator will significantly reduce, relieve, or eliminate musculoskeletal pain, including back, knee and shoulder pain; pain from severe headaches; carpal tunnel syndrome; muscle spasms and strains; sciatica; abdominal pain; and pain and discomfort caused by allergies, sinus conditions, diverticulosis, cramps, and menstrual cramps;
- Pain relief from the Stimulator is both immediate and long-term;
- For treatment of pain, the Stimulator is as effective as, or more effective than, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and such treatments as physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture; and
- The consumer testimonials in the ads reflect the typical experience of users of the Stimulator.
According to the FTC complaint, the respondents did not have a reasonable basis for these claims.
The proposed settlements would prohibit Natural Innovations, Dr. Gandee, and World Media, T.V., from making pain relief or pain elimination claims for the Stimulator or any other device without competent and reliable scientific evidence -- including, in most cases, well-controlled clinical testing -- to support the claims. In addition, the respondents would be required to have scientific support for any future health or medical benefits claims for any product. They would also be prohibited from representing that any endorsement or testimonial represents the typical experience of those who have used the product unless the claim is substantiated or it is accompanied by a prominent disclaimer.
An analysis of the proposed consent agreements will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Commission vote to accept the agreements for public comment was 5-0.
The FTC has prepared a consumer brochure titled "'Miracle' Health Claims: Add a Dose of Skepticism" to help consumers spot false and unsubstantiated claims.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. 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 $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent agreement and an analysis of the agreement to assist the public in commenting are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov or by calling 202-326-3627. Copies of the FTC brochure and other documents are also available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC’s NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 942 3251)
Howard Shapiro, 202-326-2176 or
Brenda A. Mack, 202-326-2182
Bureau of Consumer Protection