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Diet & Health Supplements

Dietary supplements and health supplements are classified under foods rather than drugs. Dietary supplement law mainly deals with dangerous side effects, marketing problems and false advertising.

Congress defined a dietary supplement as a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet.


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Dietary Supplement Law can include false advertising or labeling lawsuits, as well as injury or harm caused by various vitamins or supplements. Dietary supplements and weight loss pills can be very dangerous because manufacturers and distributors do not need FDA approval to sell their supplements. FDA regulates dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

As well as conventional foods, the FDA investigates adverse event reports related to dietary supplements, such as energy drinks. While the FDA regulates both under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FFDCA), the requirements for them are different. 

A recent study found that dietary supplements accounted for more than half of FDA Class I drug recalls between 2004 and 2012. The "Class I" designation means that the supplements contained ingredients with a reasonable probability of causing "serious adverse health consequences or death."Dietary supplements made up 51 percent of 465 drug Class I recalls between January 2004 and December 2012.

Dietary Supplement Law

dietarysupplementDietary supplements, also known as health supplements, can include vitamins, minerals and more. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (1994) defines a dietary supplement as a product that, when ingested, is meant to supplement your diet. The product must be labelled a "dietary supplement" and cannot be marketed as food to be consumed as a complete meal. It must be intended for consumption by mouth in the form of a pill, capsule, liquid or powder, and it must contain one or more dietary ingredients such as a vitamin, herb, mineral, amino acid, etc.

Serious food/diet supplement side effects, including heart, kidney and liver damage—and numerous deaths—have resulted in a number of supplement lawsuits that are attributed to supplement use. Some of those supplements, such as Fen-phen, have been removed from the market, but other products are introduced daily.

The main problem with dietary supplements is that the manufacturer determines what mixtures of supplements can be used, how much of each supplement is added and what is an acceptable, safe amount for consumers. Some products can contain a combination of ingredients that differ from the original supplement. Inadequate labeling and false advertising is another major issue.

Recent supplement lawsuits have targeted 'false and misleading' supplement ads. For instance, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Mehmet Oz filed a federal trademark infringement suit against 40 manufacturers and marketers of dietary supplements, alleging their names were used without permission in order to sell products.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising for dietary supplements sold to consumers. Advertising and promotional material received in the mail are also regulated under different laws and are subject to regulation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

In January, 2014 Federal Trade Commission announced a law enforcement initiative to stop national marketers that used deceptive advertising claims to peddle fad weight- loss products, from food additives and skin cream to dietary supplements.

A dietary supplement lawsuit may claim compensation for the following:
  • Significant medical bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost work time
  • Lost income
  • Funeral and burial costs after a fatality
  • Loss of a relationship with a parent, spouse or child
  • Loss of financial support
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Homeopathic Supplement & Remedy Fraud
Many homeopathic remedies and supplements claim improved health or cures for various ailments. As a result, a number of homeopathic fraud lawsuits have been filed—and some have settled—by consumers who believe they were subject to a homeopathic scam.

If claims made by natural or homeopathic supplement companies, vendors or stores like CVS Walgreens, Costco or Walmart sound too good to be true, they are probably false claims. For instance, a natural remedy fraud lawsuit was filed against the makers of Lipozene for fraudulently marketing its product.

Diet Pill & Weight Loss Supplement Lawsuits

dietdrugalliorlistatsideeffectsA $5 million lawsuit was filed in New York against the Kardashian sisters for endorsing the product Quick Trim, an over-the-counter (OTC) diet pill. Four customers claimed the main ingredient of the weight-loss products' formula is caffeine, which is not an effective or safe diet treatment, according to the FDA. The class action lawsuit was dismissed in New York  because a separate settlement was reached in a similar case (filed in March 2012 in San Bernadino, Calif ) but court documents indicate the complaint could be re-filed.

A class-action lawsuit was brought in early 2014 against the makers of Natural Lipo X, after testing found the product to contain caffeine, sibutramine-- an active pharmaceutical made by Abbott--and phenolphthalein, a laxative. The plaintiff, Army Reservist Sainah Theodore, alleges that she suffered insomnia after taking Natural Lipo X, causing her to "argue with strangers, stop her car in the middle of an intersection and stab pillows,"according to the New York Daily News Sibutramine, a weight-loss stimulant, was banned by the FDA in 2010 due to a long list of side effects that includes sleeplessness.

A lawsuit filed was against HD Diet Direct for marketing an unproven human hormone as a weight-loss treatment. It marketed liquid homeopathic hCG drops by falsely promising they would cause consumers to rapidly lose substantial weight.

L'Occitane claimed that its skin cream would slim users' bodies but had no science to back up that claim.

LeanSpa partially settled with the Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) for an estimated $7.3 million after deceptively promoting acai berry and "colon cleanse" weight-loss supplements through fake news websites.

The marketers of Sensa, who urged consumers to "sprinkle, eat, and lose weight" – will pay $26.5 million to settle FTC charges that they deceived consumers with unfounded weight-loss claims and misleading endorsements. The FTC will make these funds available for refunds to consumers who bought Sensa.

Energy Drinks Lawsuits

monsterenergyripperMonster Beverage has been sued for allegedly marketing its highly caffeinated Monster Energy Drink to kids, teenagers and young adults. As of October 2012, the FDA said it is investigating five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack after people consumed Monster Energy drinks.

In early 2012 a lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles federal court by a Southern California woman who bought a pre-exercise drink powder called C4 Extreme, which promises "explosive workouts."The product contains the compound known as DMAA, and is "illegal and dangerous,"according to the class-action lawsuit suit. It was originally created as an over-the-counter decongestant has been illegally and unsafely sold in widely marketed sports supplements.

Protein Powder Lawsuits, Protein Drink Lawsuits and Muscle-Building Supplement Lawsuits

A lawsuit was filed against Cytosport, Inc., over its Muscle Milk drinks. According to the lawsuit, in order to increase sales figures, Cytosport intentionally misrepresented the purported health benefits of Muscle Milk, and actively draws consumer attention away from the significant amount of saturated fats in the products. The lawsuit alleged that Cytosport profited significantly from its deceptive marketing of Muscle Milk because the company' depiction of the products as "healthy"played into consumers' increasing interest in health-conscious foods.

Vitamins & Mineral Supplement Lawsuits

Vitamin or mineral supplement lawsuits are not necessarily restricted to the pill or capsule forms of the supplements that most consumers are familiar with. Such lawsuits can also include vitamin drinks that purport certain health claims or benefits. For example, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, (CSPA) in 2009 sued Coca-Cola over deceptive health claims concerning the company's line of VitaminWater drinks, after the FDA sent the company a warning letter stating that its Diet Coke Plus labeling violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. In January, 2012 , the FTC stated it was closing its investigation because Coca-Cola had discontinued the advertising claims that the consumer group had complained about.

Other OTC supplements not approved or endorsed by the FDA

On April 21, 2014, Nano Well-being Health Inc., issued a voluntary recall of two lots of arthritis supplement  Super Arthgold (CSPI), because it was found to contain the drugs chlorzoxazone, diclofenac and indomethacin. Chlorzoxazone is a prescription muscle relaxant which can cause drowsiness and dizziness, and may interfere with the ability to perform certain tasks such as driving or operating machinery. Diclofenac and indomethacin are non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can increase the risk of cardiovascular events and gastrointestinal damage, such as bleeding, ulceration, and fatal perforation of the stomach.

Dietary, Health and Homeopathy Supplements Legal Help

If you think you have suffered a serious harmful effect or illness from a dietary supplement, the first thing you should do is contact or see your healthcare provider. If you or a loved one thinks that you might have a dietary supplements claim, you should seek an experienced attorney familiar with Supplement Law, nutrition law, and/or dietary supplement law.
Published on Jul-10-14


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