Attorney General Mills and Federal Trade Commission announce settlement with supplement sellers on false advertising charges

November 30, 2017


CONTACT: Andrew Roth-Wells
Telephone: (207) 626-8887

Attorney General Mills and Federal Trade Commission announce settlement with supplement sellers on false advertising charges

BioTherapex and NeuroPlus falsely touted to treat ailments including arthritis and memory loss

AUGUSTA – A health products company and its owner are settling charges brought by Attorney General Janet Mills and the FTC that they deceived consumers with promises that their products could treat everything from arthritis to memory loss. The proposed federal court order bars the defendants from engaging in a wide range of business practices that the Attorney General and the FTC allege deceived consumers.

According to the complaint, Health Research Laboratories, LLC (HRL) and Kramer Duhon marketed two health products, “BioTherapex,” a dietary supplement that purportedly targets the liver to address a host of ailments, and “NeuroPlus,” a brain supplement, using false and unsupported claims.

“We are putting supplement sellers on notice,” said Attorney General Mills. “False advertising, fake experts, and unauthorized charges to consumers are unlawful and we will hold those engaging in these activities accountable. The fact that they are also targeting vulnerable people with serious health concerns is particularly alarming.”

Primarily through direct mail marketing throughout the United States and Canada, the defendants advertised BioTherapex, which they sold for $39.95 per bottle, as a remedy for arthritis, joint and back pain, and weight issues. The defendants advertised NeuroPlus, which they sold for $39.99 per bottle, as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, memory loss, and cognitive deficits. The complaint alleges that these claims were false and unsubstantiated.

According to the Attorney General and the FTC, the defendants also made their direct mail brochures look like scientific journals featuring fictitious medical doctors and consumer testimonials. Brochures for BioTherapex even highlighted the results of a 1,200-person clinical study on the product, but no such study ever occurred.

The complaint also alleges the defendants engaged in other deceptive marketing practices, including misrepresenting the terms of the “risk free” trial period and enrolling consumers in auto-renewal payment plans without adequately disclosing that they were doing so.

The proposed court order bans the defendants from making any of the seven “gut check” weight-loss claims that the FTC has publicly advised are always false with respect to any dietary supplement, over-the-counter drug, or any product rubbed into or worn on the skin. The order also prohibits the defendants from making certain health-related claims unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support them. In addition, it prohibits them from misrepresenting the existence of consumer testimonials and expert endorsers.

The order prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the terms of free or risk-free trial offers, refunds, cancellations, negative option plans or automatic shipments, and the defendants must get consumers’ consent for negative option offers prior to using consumers’ billing information to obtain payment. Finally, the order imposes a judgment of $3.7 million, which will be suspended upon payment of $800,000 restitution.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not evaluated or reviewed by the Federal Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness, and even "natural" supplements can be risky depending on the medicines an individual takes or one’s medical conditions. In recent years, hundreds of supplements also have been found to be tainted with drugs and other chemicals. Consumers should always talk to a doctor before taking a new supplement and avoid any supplement claiming that it is a "cure" for any condition.

The complaint and proposed stipulated order settling the charges were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. These orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

Attorney General Mills encourages consumers to reach out to the Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at , (207) 626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131.