Speech Supplement Maker Referred to FTC for Ad Claims
June 20th, 2014
A website that markets a children’s supplement called Nutriiveda has been referred to the FTC by advertising self-regulatory board NAD for failing to discontinue promoting the product as “cures” for conditions including autism, ADD, apraxia, diabetes, seizures, traumatic brain injury and stoke.
Last June, NAD determined that the evidence submitted by the Pursuit of Research, LLC, which markets Nutriiveda, was insufficient to support its claims that the supplement cured or treated the symptoms of apraxia, autism and epilepsy in children or could, among other things, improve their speech. The claims appeared on two of the advertiser’s websites. NAD also found that testimonials on the advertiser’s websites conveyed these same unsupported messages.
The challenge to the Pursuit of Research, LLC site, was brought by competitor NourishLife, LLC, the manufacturer of Speech Nutrients, which itself was the subject of TINA.org investigation in March 2013 that found that Speak was being deceptively marketed by NourishLife. It was also the subject of a NAD ruling in August requesting it stop making certain advertising claims, including that speech-delayed children that took Speak would see significant health benefits as soon as the first week and that the supplement provides nutritional support for normal and healthy speech development. NourishLife has since made changes to its marketing of the product.
Nutriiveda is marketed by Lisa Geng, who became disenfranchised from NourishLife after working with the company and said publicly that her son had an adverse reaction to that supplement. Geng is also the founder of Children’s Apraxia Network and the Cherab Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group for children with speech and language disorders. Nutriiveda products are featured on the Cherab Foundation site. Nutriiveda is also endorsed by the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.
In its review last year, NAD determined that Pursuit of Research had not conducted any clinical trials and that none of the articles submitted by the site described studies that constituted competent and reliable evidence sufficient to support product claims, similar issues NourishLife was cited for by NAD.
Pursuit of Research agreed to permanently discontinue the claim that “taking Nutriiveda (NV) has resulted in improvements that are far more effective than any drugs or treatments on the market for conditions ranging from autism, stroke, and epilepsy to cognition and Alzheimer’s.” However, the site said it would be appealing NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board and did not want to remove testimonials on its site. In a statement to NAD, the company said: “While all claims have already been removed from the site, I feel it would be a huge disservice to remove vital parental and professional anecdotal information (testimonials) …Consumers should know what is available, and then they are free to make educated decisions.”
NAD said that it opened a compliance review and learned that Pursuit of Research continued to disseminate the unsupported claims and testimonials.
In a statement, NAD said that it was “extremely concerned that the advertiser continues to make these unsupported claims of near miraculous recovery from apraxia, autism, epilepsy and other neurological disorders, despite its representations on two occasions that it would discontinue them. Parents of children that suffer from these diseases are a vulnerable target population.”
Sara Harvey, chief operating officer for the Chopra Center, said while it endorses the product, the center does not “support any medical claims about the product” nor does Zrii, which produces the product.
Click here for more information on advertising claiming autism treatments.
The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.