TINA.org Alerts California Regulators to MyPillow’s Continued Deception
April 23rd, 2019
UPDATE 10/3/19: On Wednesday, the district attorney of Alameda County, California, filed a complaint against MyPillow for alleged violations of a 2016 settlement that prohibits the Minnesota-based company from misleading consumers about the effectiveness of its pillow. The complaint centers on a sleep study that MyPillow started promoting late last year in connection with claims that the pillow reduces the symptoms of sleep apnea sufferers, among other things. It cites a number of problems with the sleep study, including that the study is neither placebo-controlled nor double-blind, despite claims by MyPillow that it was both. The complaint comes six months after TINA.org alerted the district attorney’s office to the company’s violations of the 2016 agreement.
Three years after reaching a $1 million settlement with consumer protection officials in California over claims that it overhyped the health benefits of its eponymous pillow, Minnesota-based MyPillow is violating the terms of that agreement in spectacular fashion.
The pillow maker has spent millions of dollars promoting a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled “clinical sleep study” that the company says “proves” consumers get a better sleep with MyPillow. The problem is the study is neither randomized, double blind nor placebo controlled. To even refer to it as a study is a stretch.
The California settlement, which was informed by a 2016 TINA.org investigation into MyPillow’s marketing, broadly bans the company from misrepresenting any of the benefits of its pillows, in addition to specifically prohibiting MyPillow from making any health claims that it cannot support with reliable scientific evidence in the form of “at least one adequate and well-controlled human clinical study.” The “study” that MyPillow has used in TV commercials since November 2018 to claim that its pillow reduces the symptoms of some sleep apnea sufferers, among other things, doesn’t come close to meeting this standard. By all accounts, the study did not go according to plan, but MyPillow decided to go ahead and tout its unreliable conclusions anyway.
On Tuesday, TINA.org notified the California consumer protection officials, including the district attorney of Alameda County, that MyPillow is in violation of the 2016 settlement.
Chief among the study’s shortcomings is its own admission that researchers did not include “any comparative results between MyPillow and the placebo,” a goose down pillow, which means despite MyPillow’s characterization of the study as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical sleep study, it isn’t any of those things.
It goes downhill from there. Here are a few of the other attributes of the study that should have disqualified it from ever seeing the light of day:
- After 162 nursing home residents were dropped as unreliable subjects, researchers turned their sights to a diverse population of Brooklyn, New York, residents aged 50 and older. That may have made for an appropriate sampling if researchers hadn’t then decided to draw their “entire sample from participants of Russian ethnicity.” (Apparently, a lot of Russians were eager to volunteer.) The upshot is that the study may provide a good idea of how aging Russians in Brooklyn feel about MyPillow but that’s a pretty narrow slice of the population. Even then, researchers expressed concern about whether the Russians could be trusted and actually eliminated 43 individuals “due to questionable integrity in their responses on the weekly questionnaires.” Also, anyone reading the study doesn’t know whether subjects suffered from any sleep-related conditions such as insomnia and/or sleep apnea because the study doesn’t say so.
- While MyPillow TV commercials like these claim the study “proves” that MyPillow “helps reduce snoring” and “improve[s] oxygen levels” (as it advertises a pillow that is different from the one used in the study), neither is true. With regard to the former, the best researchers could say about a reduction in snoring was that there was “a strong positive trend nearing statistical significance,” which is not the same as saying MyPillow is proven to help reduce snoring. As for changes in oxygenation, chance could have played a role due to a tenuous p value of 0.06. Then there’s the thing that ads fail to mention but that the study is forced to reckon with: a third of participants experienced “increased hypnotic episodes.”
- When TINA.org first contacted MyPillow about its sleep study in January (and it is its sleep study as the company fully funded the study), MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said it would be published in “an upcoming issue of a medical journal.” Lindell, however, declined to give the name of the journal or to say when the issue with the study is expected out when questioned. One possible reason? The study would end up getting published in an online magazine, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“In short, it is clear that MyPillow is claiming its product has benefits that it does not actually have, and is using a flawed report as substantiation for its deceptive claims,” TINA.org wrote to California regulators, urging them to reopen their investigation.
Even as MyPillow has spent millions of dollars on TV ads touting its defective study according to ad-tracking firm iSpot.tv, the company has distanced itself from the study on its website. A banner that used to promote its findings is down and the study is no longer posted on the MyPillow website.
Find more of our coverage on MyPillow here.