FTC wins $40 million judgment against diet aid manufacturers
ATLANTA — A federal district judge here has issued an order finding several defendants in contempt for violating previous court orders related to the sale of weight-loss dietary supplements. The order imposes a more than $40 million judgment against the defendants, part or all of which the Federal Trade Commission may use to provide refunds to consumers who bought the products.
In imposing the monetary sanctions, the court noted that, “The defendants very clearly exhibited a pattern of contemptuous conduct since these proceedings began. [They] dispensed deception to those with the greatest need to believe it, and – not surprisingly – generated a handsome profit for their efforts.”
According to the court, the defendants, Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, marketed their dietary supplement diet aids with claims including “rapid fat loss,” “fat burner,” “extreme weight loss guaranteed” and “curbs the appetite,” in violation of a 2008 order.
The FTC’s case against the defendants began in November 2004, when it filed a complaint charging them with making deceptive claims about the efficacy and safety of “Thermalean” and “Lipodrene,” weight-loss products containing the since-banned ingredient ephedra.
In December 2008, a federal district court found in favor of the FTC and ordered the defendants to pay $15.8 million, which the FTC has used to provide redress to injured consumers. The court’s final order also permanently barred the defendants from claiming that their products cause rapid or substantial weight- or fat loss, or affect body fat, appetite, or metabolism unless the claims are true and supported by scientific evidence.
In November 2011, the FTC sought sanctions against Hi-Tech for violating the 2008 final order. The FTC alleged that, beginning in 2009, these defendants made prohibited weight-loss claims for four dietary supplements – Fastin, Lipodrene, Benzedrine and Stimerex-ES – without substantiating those claims. After the defendants appealed a previous ruling by the district court, the case proceeded to trial in the spring of 2017, resulting in the order in favor of the FTC announced Monday.