WASHINGTON, April 16, 2002 -- A member of the Federal Trade Commission wants media companies to take a stronger role in policing advertising touting vitamin supplements and weight loss products.
"There is nothing that prevents us" from going after media companies, Sheila Anthony said during a speech to the Food and Drug Law Institute. "We are looking at the advertising and where it is running."
Ms. Anthony said that newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasters and direct mail companies need to follow the lead of the major television networks, which review the content of advertising and reject ads that do not stand up to scrutiny.
The FTC has already prosecuted several drug companies for making fraudulent or unsupported claims about their products and has also brought charges against celebrity endorses and advertising agencies. It has also prosecuted shopping channels on occasion but has stayed away from "mainstream" media. Ms. Anthony's speech made it clear that may be about to change.
The agency has brought more than 60 law enforcement actions in the last five years challenging false or unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy and safety of a wide variety of dietary supplements.
"We have many more in the pipeline," she said.
Ms. Anthony said that since passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), a law that restricts FDA review of supplements, there has been a "dramatic increase in the marketing of supplements and, with that increase, we have seen more examples of questionable claims."