FTC Broke the Law, Attacking Supplement Companies

May 6, 2021

The Supreme Court has reined in the FTC, but more must be done to prevent the agency from silencing natural health benefits. Action Alert!

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court unanimously found that the FTC has abused its power for decades, skirting the law to illegally seek monetary penalties from companies. The Court has now removed this bludgeon from the FTC’s toolkit, which will reign in this agency’s many overreaches, particularly against the dietary supplement industry—but the agency can still go after doctors for sharing truthful information about natural medicines and COVID-19. We need further action to protect our right to use supplements to stay healthy, naturally, without unwarranted federal interference. 

The FTC has been using a section of law (section 13(b) of the FTC Act pertaining to false advertising) to bring alleged violators straight to federal court seeking monetary restitution. So if the FTC alleged a supplement maker was defrauding consumers, the agency would pursue monetary penalties without going through the correct procedures.  

The Supreme Court, however, correctly found that section 13(b) does not allow the FTC to directly assess these monetary penalties. The FTC will no longer be able to obtain monetary judgments until it has first gone through an administrative law procedure which, among other things, gives the defendant a chance to respond. 

Note that this is a separate issue from our recent reporting regarding the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, which was rushed through Congress right before Christmas, that specifically allows the FTC to assess civil penalties against those who “deceptively” market COVID-19 treatments during a declared public health emergency.

Over the past two decades, the majority of FTC false advertising actions against dietary supplement and food advertisers have resulted in settlements. In many cases, these settlements have been leveraged using 13(b); the agency essentially says, pay us or we’ll see you in federal court. The commission has obtained $11.2 billion from companies over the last five years through Section 13(b) cases, many of which involve supplement companies

The FTC has repeatedly attacked companies in the natural health space in an attempt to clamp down on free speech, alleging marketing and advertising violations of the FTC Act. The agency has gone after bad actors who break the law, but also companies making truthful claims backed up by science. Recall that the agency went after Pom Wonderful, the pomegranate juice company, for advertising the health benefits of its product. The $35 million that Pom spent on studies to back up its claims weren’t enough for this rogue agency—the FTC wanted two randomized controlled trials (RCTs), a drug standard, to substantiate health advertising claims. The courts rejected the two RCT standard, but said one RCT could be required. 

To recap why RCTs are an inappropriate standard for supplement companies: supplements, being natural, cannot be strongly patented, unlike pharmaceutical drugs. Because of the patent, it is feasible for drug companies to pay huge sums to run RCTs and get FDA approval. Since natural products are not strongly patentable, nobody can afford to run RCTs and get the FDA (or FTC) approval that is required to make a “disease” claim. 

It is proper that the Supreme Court has checked the abuses of this agency. This action is a step in the right direction, but ANH is working to fully permit food and supplements to share reputable peer-reviewed studies that could help benefit Americans’ health. The recent attacks against respected natural health expert Joseph Mercola, DO, that have resulted in the removal of truthful information from his site about how supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, and quercetin can help with COVID-19 underscores the urgent need for these reforms. Currently, only FDA-approved drugs can share information regarding their benefits in treating or preventing disease; our legislation allows supplements to cite respected studies describing their benefits. This will level the playing field and allow Americans to better access information to support their health with affordable, safe, and effective natural medicines.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and urge them to support legislation that allows the free flow of information about supplements. Please send your message immediately.

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17 responses to “FTC Broke the Law, Attacking Supplement Companies”

  1. jean publiee says:

    you rein in something
    you dont reign it in
    bad use of words

  2. Teri Campisi says:

    Please support Legislation that allows the free flow of information about supplements. It is our life that could be helped and others shouldn’t have the say about what natural supplements I want to use just because they want their pockets filled!

  3. Leslie Henderson says:

    Hm? Wow, false advertising eh? As if the covid govt cartel hasn’t done that all along, mislead, misrepresented, misinformed, harmful masks, said to save you, bogus tests, that can’t test for viruses & “vaccines” claiming to be vaccines when their gene therapy, and the vaccines were never required to protect, or prevent future anything, only to manage the symptoms, and it certainly does none of those things they say it does, like create immunity without killing you!

    Then there’s bigpharma’s truck load of toxic drug lies, and their misrepresentations? GEEZUS! Double standards, what a croc! So shouldn’t they (govt) also be held accountable for their “false snake oil sales!” I mean Moderna calls their GATE’S “vaccine” “their mMRH Platform” they don’t even call it a vaccine on their site, but it’s called that!

    “Our Operating System”
    “Recognizing the broad potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that functions very much like an operating system on a computer. It is designed so that it can plug and play interchangeably with different programs. In our case, the “program” or “app” is our mRNA drug – the unique mRNA sequence that codes for a protein.”
    https://www.modernatx.com/mrna-technology/mrna-platform-enabling-drug-discovery-development

  4. Bill Walker says:

    The Take Action button does not take me to a prepared statement. This is not helpful.

  5. Monique Cadieux says:

    Health is our greatest wealth. We should as one of the biggest nations in the world, be able to make informed decisions based on traditional
    use data of vitamin, mineral, herbal and botanical supplements that have been used as remedies for hundred years.

  6. Ernie Mink says:

    As a conservative Republican, and also one who has used supplements for over 30 years, I applaud what you are doing. Thank you!

  7. paula aluia says:

    COMMONSENSE NEEDS TO PREVAIL!!! DANGEROUS DRUGS HAVE KILLED THOUSANDS!! FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS PARAMOUNT IN A DEMOCRACY. I HAVE SAFELY BENEFITED FROM ALTERNATIVES FOR OVER 50 YEARS!! NO ONE DIES DUE TO TAKING SUPPLEMENTS…THE DRUG INDUSTRY CANNOT SAY THAT!! FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL WITH VACCINES HISTORY. HOW CAN THEY BE TRUSTED. PLUS, COVID-19 VACCINE IS ACTUALLY STILL EXPERIMENTAL. PRESIDENT TRUMP USED SOME SUPPLEMENTS ALONG WITH HIS TRATMENT!!

  8. fran Hormel says:

    reined in, not reigned in

  9. fran Hormel says:

    Thank you.

  10. Lisa Wilcox says:

    This is maddening and wrong! Natural healing is the very best type of medicine!

  11. Peter Booth Lee says:

    RCTs are an inappropriate standard for supplement companies: supplements, being natural, cannot be strongly patented, unlike pharmaceutical drugs. Because of the patent, it is feasible for drug companies to pay huge sums to run RCTs and get FDA approval. Since natural products are not strongly patentable, nobody can afford to run RCTs and get the FDA (or FTC) approval that is required to make a “disease” claim.

  12. Thomas Waldenfels says:

    Love ya … and you’ve used a pesky homonym of the word you meant to use in this article … it’s REINED in, like a horse … not reigned in.

  13. Bharat Adarkar says:

    Support legislation that allows the free flow of information about supplements.

  14. AI says:

    CONTROL IS AN ALLUSION, AND HOW LONG LAST? WANT TO CURE ALL HUMAN DIFFICULITIES AND MALIDES START WITH HUMAN OVER POPULATION, THE REALLY CONTROL THAT WILL LAST FOREVER.

  15. Judi says:

    The FDA has had free-reign for decades to stop supplements from helping people, all the while making sure that prescriptions, many of which are actually harmful to our health, can be prescribed and marketed freely. Most doctors know very little, or nothing, about supplements, and many times scorn the use of them, because our allopathic medical training system does nothing to educate “healers” in the use of them.
    When I was 28, after suffering through upper-respiratory infections all through my teens and twenties, it was determined that I was “mildly” anemic. I asked the Internist I went to if taking iron supplements would help me…his response, verbatim, was “You can if you want to, but don’t tell anyone that I told you to.” I began taking FemIron, a ferrous fumerate supplement, and from that point on to this day, and I am 81, I have not had a cold or the flu, ever. I began taking other supplements about 6 months after I began taking FemIron, and all my systems are healthy and strong. Noone will EVER convince me that supplements don’t work!

  16. Gail Costa says:

    Let natural supplemental products be part of the agenda to address the pandemic. This is too serious a challenge to allow one singular approach.

  17. michael bugnacki says:

    people who know nothing about nutrition tell us what to eat! what is wrong with this?

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