THOMAS J. SYTA
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
MET-RX USA, INC., a Nevada corporation, and MET-RX SUBSTRATE TECHNOLOGY, INC., a Nevada corporation, Defendants.
COMPLAINT FOR PERMANENT INJUNCTION AND OTHER EQUITABLE RELIEF
Plaintiff, the Federal Trade Commission ("Commission"), by its undersigned attorneys alleges:
1. The Commission brings this action under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. § 53(b), to obtain permanent injunctive relief and other equitable relief for defendants' deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising and sale of androgen hormone supplements in violation of Sections 5(a) and 12 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a) and 52.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
2. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a), 52, and 53(b) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1337(a) and 1345.
3. Venue in this district is proper under 15 U.S.C. § 53(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and (c).
4. Plaintiff, the Commission, is an independent agency of the United States government created by statute, 15 U.S.C. §§ 41 et seq. The Commission enforces Sections 5(a) and 12 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a) and 52, which respectively prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce and false advertisements for food, drugs, devices, cosmetics or services in or affecting commerce. The Commission is authorized to initiate federal district court proceedings to enjoin violations of the FTC Act and to secure such equitable relief as is appropriate in each case. 15 U.S.C. § 53(b).
5. Defendant Met-Rx USA, Inc. ("Met-Rx") is a Nevada corporation with its principal place of business at 2112 Business Center Dr., Irvine, CA 92612. Since at least 1998, and continuing thereafter, Met-Rx has manufactured, marketed and sold nutritional supplements, including androgen supplements that purportedly increase muscle mass, strength and libido. Met-Rx transacts or has transacted business in the Central District of California.
6. Defendant Met-Rx Substrate Technology, Inc. ("Substrate Technology") is a Nevada corporation with its principal place of business also at 2112 Business Center Drive, Irvine, California 92612. Substrate Technology is affiliated with Met-Rx through common officers, principals, management, and/or ownership. Substrate Technology transacts or has transacted business in the Central District of California.
7. At all times material to this complaint, defendants' course of business, including the acts and practices alleged herein, has been and is in or affecting commerce, as "commerce" is defined in Section 4 of the FTC Act, 15, U.S.C. § 44.
DEFENDANTS' COURSE OF CONDUCT
8. Defendants advertise, promote, offer for sale, sell, and distribute their androgen supplements to consumers throughout the United States via the Internet at <www.met-rx.com> and <www.substratesolutions.com>, and through magazines, the mail, a toll free telephone number and retail stores, among other means. The defendants' androgen supplements contain androgens, which are steroid hormones that cause the development of male sex organs and other physical characteristics of males. Specifically, defendants' androgen supplements contain the steroid hormones androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, and/or norandrostenediol.
9. Defendants' androgen supplements include, but are not limited to, "Andro Heat," "Andro Stack," "Androdiol," "Diol Stack," "Nor Stack," and "Norandrodiol." These products contain various amounts and combinations of the steroid hormones androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, and norandrostenediol. Defendants market these supplements under the brand name "Substrate Solutions," and collectively refer to the products as their "line of prohormones."
10. In addition to steroid hormones, defendants' androgen supplement Andro Heat contains ephedrine and caffeine. Ephedrine, which is extracted from the herb ephedra, is a crystallized alkaloid that stimulates the central nervous system and the heart. Combining ephedrine with caffeine enhances the stimulant effects of ephedrine.
11. Defendants represent or have represented that their androgen supplements are safe and produce little or no side effects, in addition to representing that these products will increase strength and muscle mass. True and correct copies of some of the promotional materials that defendants have disseminated are attached as Exhibits 1 and 2. Defendants' advertisements and promotional materials for androgen supplements contain the following statements, among others.
12. On its websites < www.met-rx.com > and < www.substratesolutions.com >, defendants represent: prohormones are not in and of themselves classical androgenic (anabolic) steroids; they are naturally occurring compounds classified as androgens. However, prohormones possess little androgenic activity. . .
The question arises of whether prohormones share the same abuse potential as classical androgenic/anabolic steroids. The answer rests in the built-in limitation of the human body's enzyme systems. . . . A person using prohormones may receive a safe and mild effect (with little in the way of side effects) but will have little success when increasing the dosage in an effort to increase benefits. The "abuse proof" nature of prohormones is a rarely discussed point but is a core mission of Substrate Solutions."
Substrate Solutions - The Andro and NorAndro Authority, www.met-rx.com (Exhibit 1) and Substrate Solutions - The Andro and NorAndro Authority, www.substratesolutions.com (Exhibit 2) (emphasis added).
DEFENDANTS' VIOLATIONS OF THE FTC ACT
13. As set forth below, defendants have violated Sections 5(a) and 12 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a) and 52, in connection with the offer, sale or advertising of androgen supplements, including, but not limited to, Andro Heat, Andro Stack, Androdiol, Diol Stack, Nor Stack, and Norandrodiol.
14. Defendants' androgen supplements are either "foods" or "drugs" for purposes of Sections 12 and 15 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 52 and 55.
15. Through their advertising and promotional materials, including, but not limited to representations contained in advertisements attached as Exhibits 1 and 2, defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that their androgen supplements, in the doses recommended or in other reasonably foreseeable amounts:
16. Defendants did not possess and rely upon a reasonable basis to substantiate the representations set forth in Paragraph 15. No reliable scientific data or studies demonstrate that defendants' androgen supplements are safe and produce no or minimal side effects. Further, endocrinologists and other health professionals raise serious concerns regarding lack of safety testing on androgen supplements and the potential health risks and negative side effects of using such products. In addition, the use of androgen supplements that contain ephedra extract, alone or in combination with caffeine, can adversely affect the heart and central nervous system. Therefore, defendants' representations set forth in Paragraph 15 are false and misleading and constitute deceptive acts or practices and false advertising for food or drugs, in violation of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a) and 52.
17. As a result of defendants' unlawful acts or practices, consumers throughout the United States have suffered and continue to suffer risk of injury. Absent injunctive relief by this Court, the defendants are likely to continue to injure consumers and harm the public interest.
THIS COURT'S POWER TO GRANT RELIEF
18. Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53 (b) empowers this Court to grant injunctive and other ancillary relief to prevent and remedy any violations of any provision of law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, plaintiff Federal Trade Commission requests this Court, pursuant to Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53(b) and the Court's own equitable powers, to:
1. Permanently enjoin defendants from violating the FTC Act as alleged herein; and 2. Award plaintiff such other and additional equitable relief as the Court may determine to be proper and just.
Dated: , 1999.
DEBRA A. VALENTINE
ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF