Diet Pill Hawkers Pay Up


The makers of weight-loss products FiberThin, MetaboUp, Excelerene, and Propolene have agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine and stop advertising their weight-loss products as aids to losing weight.

That came in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which has been cracking down on bogus dietary supplements. The companies will have to pony up $41 million more if they have misrepresented their financing to the commission, but in either case do not have to admit any wrongdoing.

The FTC had charged the defendants with using TV spots, infomercials, and Web sites to market the supplements as metbolism enhancers that cause rapid weight loss. In the process, they used various claims the FTC has flagged as being bogus on their face, including that the supplement "would cause rapid, substantial weight loss (more than 2 pounds per week) without the need to diet or exercise; that weight loss would occur no matter what the consumer ate; and that weight loss would occur in all users."

The broadcast and cable media that carry the offending ads are on notice to keep an eye out for these facially false claims and falg them before they make it on air. Among the media outlets who haven't learned the warning signs were The Learning Channel, CNBC, Home & Garden TV and PAX, according to the FTC complaint. A CNBC spokeswoman said that, for its part, the network does not accept those spots, and that the commission must have seen a local ad on the network.

The FTC has yet to go after any of the media outlets for continuing to air the ads, but it has not taken that option off the table.