FTC Charges Ephedra Product Marketers

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday unveiled charges against companies accused of deception in marketing products containing the substance ephedra.

In its complaints, the FTC charged that the companies made false claims that products containing ephedra caused rapid and permanent weight loss without side effects or health risks and that clinical studies supported those claims.

The sweep resulted in two settlements and one pending complaint.

Health Laboratories of North America Inc. and USA Pharmacal Sales Inc. agreed to cease making the claims and to pay a total of $370,000 to compensate consumers, the FTC said.

The FTC is still pursuing complaints against Michael S. Levey and Gary Ballen, both California residents, and their companies on the same charges.

Levey and Ballen advertised their products through brochures, the FTC said. Health Laboratories and USA Pharmacal relied on direct mail and regional newspaper advertising.

Ephedra is a dietary supplement available over the counter. However, U.S. health experts have warned against its use, and the substance has come under scrutiny after the deaths of several athletes, including Major League Baseball pitcher Steve Belcher, who used ephedra.

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