Sweeping federal probe leads to numerous charges against dietary supplements makers.

(subscription to Law360 required)

  • Dietary supplement makers have come under fire in recent years as federal and state regulators have ramped up efforts to weed out fraudulent dietary supplements from the marketplace.  As previously reported on this blog, earlier this fall, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) identified “illegal activity in the dietary supplement industry” as a high priority for the Agency.
  • Earlier this week DOJ, together with several other federal agencies (including the FDA, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), announced a number of criminal and civil actions brought against those selling and marketing fraudulent dietary supplements, colloquially referred to as “21st-Century snake oil”, including an 11-count DOJ indictment against dietary supplement manufacturers USPlabs LLC and S.K. Laboratories Inc. and several of their executives. The DOJ also filed five civil cases seeking injunctive relief against a number of businesses and people who allegedly sold supplements as disease cures or otherwise broke the law in matters investigated by USPIS and the FDA.  These include U.S. v. Clifford Woods LLC, doing business as Vibrant Life, et al., a case in California federal court that accuses the defendants of illegally selling Taheebo Life Tea and other products as treatments for diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and cancer; U.S. v. James R. Hill, doing business as Viruxo, a suit in Florida federal court that claims Hill sold Viruxo as a treatment for herpes; and U.S. v. Lehan Enterprises Inc., doing business as Optimum Health, et al., a case in Massachusetts federal court that alleges the defendants sold products as treatments for conditions and diseases including arthritis and cancer.
  • These charges and the continued attention dietary supplements are sure to receive in the coming months and years serve as a reminder to industry to ensure adequate substantiation for any claims made about finished products or their ingredients.