The Federal Trade Commission accused Bayer of claiming without reliable evidence that green-tea extract included in One-A-Day WeightSmart increased metabolism and helped users prevent weight gain. The claim was carried in print ads from Omnicom Group's BBDO in newspapers and magazines including Redbook, Family Circle and TV Guide.
The FTC alleged Bayer's weight-loss claim violated a 1991 order signed by Miles Inc. -- the name Bayer AG used for its U.S. business before renaming the unit Bayer HealthCare -- that One-A-Day products would be marketed with competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The FTC said the Bayer settlement is the biggest civil penalty for a violation of a previous FTC order in a health-claims case.
Bayer today contended its marketing was accurate, but said it settled to "expeditiously resolve" the FTC's complaint.
"Bayer stands behind its One-A-Day WeightSmart multivitamin and fully believes that all claims made in the marketing of the product are well substantiated and supported. WeightSmart provides safe and effective nutritional support to those who are watching their weight," the company said.
FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, in announcing settlements against marketers of five products, said she was worried that consumers would view pills as alternatives to more realistic diet and exercise weight-loss programs. "We think these actions send a message to companies on the edge," she said.
Asked whether she was concerned by the FTC's decision to action against a major marketer, she said, "I am concerned about any company that makes claims that are not supported by science."
"We are pretty confident they have got the message," she said of Bayer HealthCare.
Xanadrine EFX, CortiSlim, TrimSpa
The other products the FTC targeted were Xanadrine EFX, CortiSlim and CortiStress, and TrimSpa.
Robert Chinery Jr. and RTC Research & Development will have to pay $8 million to $12.8 million to settle an FTC complaint that marketing of Xenadrine EFX was false and deceptive. The seven marketers of CortiSlim and CortiStress will surrender $12 million to settle their case. The four marketers of TrimSpa will pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that their Anna Nicole Smith ads touting TrimSpa's health benefits were unsubstantiated.
The FTC, in announcing its action today, said it was proceeding against marketers of four major weight-control-pill marketers, a contention Bayer HealthCare disputed.
"Bayer strongly disagrees with the Federal Trade Commission's description of our company in this settlement announcement as 'a major marketer of weight-loss pills.' We believe this description is erroneous," the company said in a statement.