Claims that "JointFlex," a widely advertised topical skin cream, will eliminate significant pain due to disabling joint conditions, crushed vertebrae, herniated disks and other conditions are unsubstantiated, the Federal Trade Commission said in accepting a settlement with a Florida company and its owner. The FTC charged that SmartScience Laboratories, Inc. and its president, Gene Weitz, made numerous false and deceptive claims about the effectiveness of JointFlex. The respondents have agreed to cease all future claims about the absolute or comparative efficacy of JointFlex or any drug or supplement in reducing, relieving or eliminating pain from any source unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.
"Marketers must remember the first Rule of advertising law: If you're making a claim, you've got to have solid evidence to back it up," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "And newspapers and other advertisers owe it to their readers to do a better job of screening ads for false, deceptive and misleading claims."
According to the FTC, the respondents advertised JointFlex in national newspapers and magazines, such as the Washington Post and USA Today, as well as local newspapers throughout the country. The ads claim that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in JointFlex contribute to pain relief when applied topically. Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural substances found in and around cartilage. Pills containing these supplements are widely advertised to provide arthritis and joint pain relief. The FTC charged, however, that there is insufficient scientific evidence that the glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in JointFlex are able to penetrate the skin and provide any relief as a topical cream.
The FTC's complaint alleges that SmartScience Laboratories, based in Odessa, Florida, and Weitz advertised that JointFlex provides more pain relief than other over-the-counter pain creams; that glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate contribute to pain relief when applied topically; and that testimonials from consumers appearing in their ads represent the typical or ordinary experiences of consumers who use the product. According to the FTC, the respondents lack scientific evidence to support these claims.
Finally, the complaint alleges that the ads contained false claims about the results of a JointFlex consumer study that purportedly shows that 95 percent of users experienced reduction or elimination of pain due to JointFlex, and that the respondents falsely characterized the experiences of two consumers who provided testimonials.
The proposed consent agreement to settle these allegations, announced today for public comment, would prohibit SmartScience and Weitz from making claims about the efficacy of JointFlex or any drug or dietary supplement in reducing, relieving or eliminating pain from any source, or about the health benefits, performance, safety or efficacy of a product, unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate the claims.
The proposed settlement would also prohibit misrepresentations about the results of tests, studies, surveys and research with respect to any product and would require that testimonials be truthful and not deceptive.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 5-0. An analysis of the proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until September 15, 2000, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
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 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 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. 992 3274)