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FTC Charges Diet Supplement Companies

The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint yesterday against a group of companies, alleging that they used direct mail and online ads to deceptively market diet supplements containing the controversial substances ephedra and yohimbine.

National Urological Group, National Institute for Clinical Weight Loss and Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, all based in Norcross, GA, along with several individuals, were charged in the civil complaint.

The companies are accused of making unsubstantiated claims about the safety and efficacy of two diet supplements, Thermalean and Lipodrene, in treating weight loss, and of a third supplement, Spontane-ES, in treating erectile dysfunction, according to the FTC.

Consumers paid $80 for a two-month supply of Thermalean and $30 for a one-month supply of Lipodrene, the FTC said. Both contained ephedra until April 2004 when the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of diet supplements containing the substance due to safety risks, the FTC said. Since the ban took effect, the companies have not advertised or sold Thermalean or Lipodrene containing ephedra.

Consumers paid $100 for a 60-count bottle of Spontane-ES, the FTC said. Claims made by the companies about the safety of Spontane-ES were unsubstantiated because the product contains yohimbine, a substance known to raise blood pressure and interact adversely with certain medications, according to the FTC.

Jared Wheat, president of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, said yesterday that his company decided to go to trial on the FTC's complaint after negotiations with the FTC failed to produce a settlement. He declined to comment further about the case.

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