Posted October 18, 2005

FTC Stops False Claims about HGH Oral Spray

On October 18, 2005, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that, at its request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order against marketers of oral sprays that supposedly contain human growth hormone (HGH) to stop them from making alleged false and deceptive claims and from sending illegal spam.

[See ConsumerLab.com's review article for the facts and myths about HGH supplements.]

The temporary restraining order also freezes the defendants’ assets. The FTC charged that the sprays, marketed on dozens of Web sites and through spam, do not cause weight loss, reverse the aging process, or prevent or treat diseases as advertised.

The FTC alleged in a complaint that the sprays do not contain HGH or cause the body to produce it. The complaint charged that the defendants made false and deceptive product claims, misrepresented the security of their online ordering pages, and sent hundreds of thousands of illegal spam messages advertising the sprays. The defendants are Pacific Herbal Sciences, Inc. and its president, John A. Brackett, Jr., and Natural Health Product, Inc. and New Star Marketing Group, Inc. and their president, Lei Lu, also known as Lei Li, also doing business as IE Marketing, Inc.

According to the FTC complaint, the advertisements for “HGH Revolution” and “Natural Rejuvenator HGH-R” made incredible claims such as:

“LOSE WEIGHT WHILE YOU SLEEP without DIETING or EXERCISE”

“Experience up to an 82% IMPROVEMENT in body fat loss while erasing 10 YEARS in 10 WEEKS!”

The marketing pitches for the sprays referred to clinical studies and prestigious publications to give credibility to their claims.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged the defendants made false claims about their products, lacked substantiation for those claims, and falsely stated that scientific studies validate their claims. Specifically, the defendants’ ads made false or misleading claims that the sprays:

contained HGH or increased the body’s production of HGH;

caused users to lose weight, without dieting or exercise;

would turn back or slow the aging process, including increasing strength and energy, restoring the size of “bodily organs that shrink with age,” and improving memory; and would prevent, treat, or cure diseases and medical conditions, such as strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, increasing bone density, improving vision, quickening healing from injuries, acting as an antidepressant, and stabilizing mood swings.

The defendants also claimed their Web site ordering pages were secure, saying, “NOTE: To ensure your personal privacy, all of the information that you submit to us after this point will be secured using SSL encryption technology.” The FTC charged that the Web sites were not, in fact, encrypted, and consumer information transmitted was not secure.

The FTC alleged that the defendants drove traffic to their Web sites through spam, sent by marketers they paid. Consumers forwarded more than 200,000 of these e-mails to the FTC in 18 months. The FTC’s complaint contends that much of the defendants’ email violated the CAN-SPAM Act by using falsified headers and deceptive subject headings; leaving out an Internet-based mechanism to opt-out of receiving future e-mails; and omitting required information, including the sender’s physical postal address, identification of the e-mail as an advertisement or solicitation, and an opportunity to decline receiving further e-mails from the sender.

The FTC is seeking a permanent ban on the defendants’ false and misleading claims and illegal spam, as well as money back for consumers.