Supplement Marketers to Pay $2.2M

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A group of marketers that sold dietary supplements via direct mail has agreed to pay $2.2 million to repay consumers to whom it made false and unsubstantiated claims about the effects of its products, the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday.


The group claimed that its supplements Zymax and MillinesES, both of which contained the now-banned substance ephedra, and Serotril, which contained St.-John's-wort, caused rapid weight loss without exercise, the FTC said. In addition, it claimed its CartazyneDS product, which contained glucosamine, cured arthritis and rebuilt cartilage.


Named in the group were Bentley Myers International, Vancouver, British Columbia; Publisher's Data Services and Nutritional Life, both of Beverly Hills, CA, and as individuals Gary Ballen and the estate of Michael S. Levey, who died in August 2003. Levey also was charged with violating a 1993 consent order prohibiting him from making unsubstantiated claims.


FTC commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the settlement with commissioner Orson Swindle, who called the payment amount "woefully inadequate," dissenting. Swindle said that though compassion for the Levey family in light of Michael S. Levey's death was warranted, the settlement leaves the family and Ballen substantial assets that rightfully belong to consumers who were deceived.


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