Truth in Advertising Program Refers 40 Cases to FTC and FDA
Marc Ullman, chairman of the Natural Products Foundation Legal Advisory Council, met with representatives of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in January to present documentation highlighting 40 advertisers responsible for making drug claims on behalf of dietary supplements. The cases were also brought to the attention of representatives at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The 40 organizations referred to the federal agencies failed to amend marketing materials after being contacted by the NPF Truth in Advertising Program. NPF requested that the agencies take action against all non-compliant companies, including the most recent Truth in Advertising referrals.
“NPF is pleased with the continued feedback and interest our Truth in Advertising initiative has received over the past four years from FTC and FDA,” noted Mr. Ullman. “We are working aggressively to maintain advertising standards within the industry, and to rehabilitate problems we see from the inside. Since 2010, this program has sent 400 warning letters to companies with illegal claims in their advertising. Every year we find the advertisers increasingly receptive and open to our message of reform. Changes are made day-to-day, improving the larger picture for the industry, and protecting consumers from false or misleading information.”
The NPF Truth in Advertising Program works to educate publishers, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers to help ensure that consumers receive accurate information about dietary supplements. In 2013, as part of the Truth in Advertising initiative, NPF reviewed 275 advertising cases suspected to be problematic and mailed 150 warning letters to companies marketing dietary supplements with illegal drug and disease claims.
“With the Foundation’s education outreach and guidance, a large majority of advertisers are able to correct and improve their materials without issue,” stated Ullman. “Most cases result in positive action; however, if companies are unwilling to bring advertising into compliance after glaring problems have surfaced, then the only option left is regulatory action. As responsible industry members we feel it is vital to sit down with regulators, highlight the trends we’re seeing in the field, identify the pitfalls, and to work through individually detailed case histories.”
Since 2010, 74% of warning letter recipients have acknowledged the problems highlighted by NPF investigation and worked to revise their promotional content and advertising practices. Over the four-year course of the program, Truth in Advertising has overseen 600 advertising case reviews. Truth in Advertising Review is initiated by NPF staff members under the supervision of the NPF Legal Advisory Council.
“The NPF Legal Advisory Council is composed of dedicated lawyers who volunteer their time to help monitor problems and educate members of our industry,” said Ullman. “This is a great example of the supplement industry’s commitment to compliance and self-regulation.”
Current Legal Advisory Council volunteers are Mr. Ullman of Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, New York; William Garvin of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Washington, D.C.; Jackie Kuler of Gronek & Associates, Chicago; Nicholas Licato, General Counsel at Nexgen Pharma; and Jim Prochnow and Justin Prochnow of Greenberg Traurig, Denver.
The Truth in Advertising Program provides resources and guidance to industry members so that the information presented to consumers concerning dietary supplements is truthful and not misleading. Resources are highlighted on the NPF industry-oriented webpage: naturalproductsfoundation.org/truth.
“NPF aims to improve the overall standard of supplement advertising,” stated David Brown, chairman of the NPF Board of Directors. “We continue our industry outreach knowing the absolute importance of honest advertising for both the well-being of consumers and the sustained integrity of all natural products.”