A subsidiary of diet plan marketer Medifast Inc. will pay a $3.7 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated a previous agency order by making unsupported claims about its weight-loss program.
Medifast unit Jason Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has agreed to settle FTC charges that weight-loss claims in the company’s advertisements for meal replacement products violated a 1992 FTC settlement order, which barred it from making any unsupported claims about users’ success in achieving or maintaining weight loss or weight control.
Jason Pharmaceuticals sells Medifast-brand low-calorie meal substitutes. Its most advertised plan is the Medifast “5 and 1” plan that consists of 800-1,000 calories per day. Filed on the FTC’s behalf by the Department of Justice, the complaint against Jason Pharmaceuticals alleges that the company made unsupported representations since at least November 2009 in radio, television, Internet, and print advertisements that consumers using Medifast programs and products would lose two to five pounds each week.
The company also represented that the experiences of consumer endorsers featured in the advertisements were typical, and that consumers would lose more than 30 pounds, according to the complaint.
One such ad stated:
“Why Medifast? Three great reasons.
Cynthia Lujan lost 73 lbs on Medifast! Cindy Daniels lost 43 lbs on Medifast!
Jennifer Lilley lost 70 lbs on Medifast!
You can lose up to 2 to 5 pounds per week on Medifast.”
Under the new settlement order announced today, Jason Pharmaceuticals is prohibited from misrepresenting that consumers who use any low-calorie meal replacement program, including the Medifast “5 and 1” plan, can expect to achieve the same results that an endorser does, or can lose a particular amount of weight or maintain the weight loss.
Such representations must be non-misleading and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence that consists of at least one adequate and well-controlled human clinical study of the low-calorie meal replacement program, or a study that follows a protocol detailed in the settlement order.
Under the settlement order, the company also is prohibited from making any other representation about the health benefits, safety, or side effects of any low-calorie meal replacement program, unless the representation is non-misleading and backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence that is generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate results.
The company also is prohibited from misrepresenting that any doctor, health professional, or endorser recommends a weight-loss product, program, service, drug, or dietary supplement.