DoTerra Distributors’ Drug Claims Violate the Law

October 16th, 2019

“They were put on this earth for a purpose, for our healing,” Utah-based essential oils MLM doTerra says in the company video above in reference to the category of products it offers. The video, which describes essential oils as part of the “future of modern health care,” natural and 100 percent safe and effective, doesn’t get into specifics vis-à-vis the conditions essential oils can treat. No matter. That seems to be the job of the doTerra distributor.

TINA.org has compiled a sampling of more than 140 examples of doTerra distributors claiming the company’s essential oils can treat or alleviate the symptoms of a number of health conditions, including ADHD, autism, cancer, diabetes, endometriosis, epilepsy and PTSD, just to name a few.

 

The fact that it’s distributors who are making these unapproved drug treatment claims, as opposed to, say, doTerra executives, is a tiny detail. In the MLM world, distributor claims are company claims. Moreover, as the FDA warned doTerra in 2014, the company has a responsibility to ensure that its products are marketed legally (i.e., not with unsubstantiated health claims):

[T]here are drug claims being made by your consultants for a wide range of your doTerra Essential Oil products … It is your responsibility to ensure that all of your products are in compliance with all requirements of the [Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic] Act and federal regulations.

While doTerra told WebMD in August 2018 that, “In the most recent visit from the FDA, they recognized the huge efforts doTerra has made regarding compliance and gave no recommended corrections,” an FDA spokeswoman told TINA.org this week that the matter “is still open and we continue to work with the firm to come into compliance.” In other words, contrary to what doTerra says, the FDA has not cleared the company.

In addition to deceptively marketing doTerra’s essential oils as effective for the treatment of several health conditions — in social media posts that often target women, including mothers (see slideshow above) — doTerra distributors claim that the company’s products are completely safe to use. Many product pages on doTerra’s website, however, list “[p]ossible skin sensitivity” under “Cautions.” Those who use the Breathe respiratory blend are advised to “[a]void sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after applying product.” Moreover, the FDA says:

Sometimes people think that if an “essential oil” or other ingredient comes from a plant, it must be safe. But many plants contain materials that are toxic, irritating, or likely to cause allergic reactions when applied to the skin.

Essential oils are a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. They are used aromatically, topically and internally, though, again, there are risks. How they are marketed determines how they are regulated.

“If a product is intended for a therapeutic use, such as treating or preventing disease, or to affect the structure or function of the body, it’s a drug,” the FDA says, adding: “Under the law, drugs must meet requirements such as FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market.”

TINA.org reached out to doTerra for comment. Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on essential oils here.

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Multi-Level Marketing – a way of distributing products or services in which the distributors earn income from their own retail sales and from retail sales made by their direct and indirect recruits.

Only drugs can be marketed as having the ability to diagnose, cure, treat, prevent or mitigate a disease, and the only way for a product to gain legit drug status is by getting FDA approval, which means any product that doesn’t get FDA approval can’t say it has the ability to diagnose, cure, treat, prevent or mitigate a disease.

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