Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lawsuit: Bayer Misleads in Marketing Its One A Day Vitamins


Contrary to Ads, One A Day Pills Will not Prevent Heart Disease or Other Health Problems, Says CSPI

WASHINGTON—Bayer is not telling the truth when it claims that One A Day multivitamins will promote heart health, immunity, or energy levels, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  The nonprofit watchdog group today filed a class action lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against a myriad of false claims on ads and labels for One A Day, as well as refunds to consumers who may have purchased the products expecting the promised benefits.

One A Day markets a wide variety of multivitamins to various segments of the population, such as men, men over 50, women, women over 50, menopausal women, and male and female teens.  Packaging and marketing for those and other varieties of One A Day give the impression that the pills are specifically formulated to target one or more different health concerns.  But according to CSPI’s complaint, the contents of the varieties aren’t enough to justify many of the claims.

Several One A Day varieties bear claims that they “support heart health” because of the pills’ vitamin B6, B12, C, E, and folic acid, another B vitamin.  “One way I take care of my engine is with One A Day Men’s.  A complete multivitamin with nutrients to help support heart health,” says an actor pretending to work on a car in a television ad for that product.  But both the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association say that supplementing with those vitamins does not help reduce the risk or severity of heart disease.  Bayer’s claims to the contrary are illegal disease prevention claims designed to deceive consumers, says CSPI.

“A multivitamin can be beneficial to those who are vitamin deficient, which few Americans are,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner.  “None of Bayer’s multivitamins can unclog arteries, prevent heart attacks, or otherwise ameliorate heart disease.  And to the extent these claims prompt people to take vitamin pills instead of doctor-prescribed heart medicines, Bayer may be harming people’s health as well as their wallets.”

Marketing for other One A Day varieties claim that the products “support immunity.”  Such claims are designed to give consumers the impression that the products will help them get sick less often, or to have illnesses of shorter duration, says CSPI.  Bayer bases such claims on the presence of vitamins A, C, E, selenium, iron, beta-carotene, and zinc in the pills or gummies.  But scientific studies prove that supplementation with those vitamins has no effect on adults’ immunity in developed countries like the United States.  Randomized clinical trials show that multivitamins do not affect the number, severity, or length of any illnesses.

Other varieties of One A Day bear claims that the pills will help support physical energy, claims designed to convince consumers that they will feel more energetic if they take the pills.  Those claims are also misleading and illegal because scientific evidence confirms that supplementing with the respectively specified vitamins does not help people feel more energetic.          

The case was filed on behalf of a California consumer in United States District Court in the Northern District of California.  Lawyers from the firm of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP are acting as co-counsel alongside CSPI’s litigation department.

Bayer has a long history of deceiving consumers about One A Day vitamins and other products made by the Leverkusen, Germany-headquartered drug giant, according to CSPI.  In 2010 Bayer entered into a settlement agreement with three state attorneys general after the company claimed “emerging research” indicated that the mineral selenium in One A Day pills might protect men against prostate cancer.  (It doesn’t).  In 2007, Bayer paid a $3.2 million civil fine as part of a settlement agreement with the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission over weight-loss claims on One A Day.  

Just last month, the Justice Department asked that Bayer be held in civil contempt for violating the 2007 consent order for using unsubstantiated claims to market its Phillips’ Colon Health pills.  “The Department of Justice will not tolerate companies that seek to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors by promoting to consumers unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of their products,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery, referring to Bayer in a Justice Department press release.

Besides the state and federal civil settlements related to its vitamin pill business, Bayer has entered guilty pleas in a major Medicaid fraud case and in a price-fixing conspiracy.

“Bayer is a repeat offender that continues to operate in open defiance of the various state and federal authorities to whom it has promised not to deceive consumers about One A Day,” Gardner said.  “That should signal to the government, and perhaps to a jury, that the fines and penalties it has already been subject to haven’t been remotely adequate to assure that Bayer obeys the law.”

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