The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have taken action against two companies for making unsubstantiated medical claims about the 'cure-all' dietary supplement Seasilver.
Seasilver USA and Americaloe made false and unsubstantiated claims that the liquid supplement could treat or cure up to 650 diseases, including AIDS and cancers, and cause substantial and permanent weight loss. The FDA says it has seized inventories of the product and is acting to halt the fraudulent marketing of Seasilver as part of 'Operation Cure.All', an ongoing campaign among the FTC, the FDA, Health Canada, Canada's Competition Bureau, and state Attorneys General to crack down on companies using unscrupulous marketing to sell supplements.
"This is the sort of intolerable health fraud I had in mind when I announced six months ago that the FDA will take vigorous actions against firms that prey on consumers and patients by selling worthless dietary supplements as cures for serious and chronic diseases and conditions," said Mark B. McClellan, the FDA Commissioner. "Using these ineffective products is worse than wasting money - it may cause irreparable harm by delaying or replacing approved treatments that can bring actual health benefits."
Seasilver is a liquid multi-vitamin/mineral/amino acid dietary supplement that purports to contain, among other ingredients, aloe vera, phyto-silver (purportedly a plant-based silver), sea vegetables, the herb Pau D'Arco, and cranberry concentrate. A 32-ounce bottle of Seasilver costs $39.95.
The FTC complaint, filed in federal district court in Nevada on June 12, 2003, alleges that the California-based companies, their principals Bela and Jason Berkes; Brett Rademacher, doing business as Netmark International and NetmarkPro and David R. Friedman, violated the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims for Seasilver.
The supplement was being promoted through national television and radio infomercials, websites, spam emails, and a glossy 28-page consumer brochure. The defendants publicly claimed that Seasilver USA earns $180 million annually from selling Seasilver. However the treatment claims for Seasilver mean it becomes an unapproved new drug under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act).
The FTC took action against three claims made by Seasilver - that it treats or cures cancer; that it enables nine out of ten diabetes patients to stop their insulin medication; and thirdly that it causes rapid, substantial, and permanent weight loss without dieting.
The federal district court has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the companies from making the challenged claims and freezing their assets. The FTC is also seeking compensation for consumers who purchased the product.
Last week United States Marshals seized 132,480 bottles of Seasilver, worth nearly $5.3 million from Seasilver USA's San Diego headquarters, reported the FTC. The FDA has also observed sanitation problems at the Seasilver USA manufacturing facility.