“This will not change who we are. We are an information based company,” said Dr Michael A. Smith MD, senior health scientist for Florida-based Life Extension.
“Our basic statement is that we are investigating this and we are confident that we are in full compliance with federal regulations,” Dr Smith told NutraIngredients-USA.
FDA: Products promoted as disease treatments
In the letter FDA objected to the way that Life Extension was disseminating health information. The company has many pages on its website devoted to different diseases, with sections of these pages called “Health Protocols” devoted to treatment modalities. According to FDA the company was presenting its products via these protocols as treatments for these diseases. For example, the agency noted “under the disease, ‘Breast Cancer’ you include a link to a page with information about breast cancer and include, ‘Life Extensions Suggestions’ which lists products and directions for use as part of the protocol.” There followed a list of more than 30 Life Extension products suggested as being helpful for breast cancer sufferers.
FDA noted that Life Extension has more than 80 such disease-oriented sections on its website, each with its own product-recommendation section. The agency also noted that the the company had been making disease claims via Facebook postings, including a case where a Life Extension product was promoted for its ability to prevent blindness. The agency alleged that disease claim language was interwoven throughout the company’s marketing of its products.
“We note that there are over 400 products on your website that contain various disease claims. You should review your website for violations not mentioned in this letter,” the agency wrote.
Discussion of disease still a prominent feature
Dr. Smith said that in his company’s view, the issue was a too-close relationship between Life Extension products and the information the company disseminates about the various diseases.
“This was about FDA questioning the layout of certain pages. There really wasn’t anything to this except where we were placing some links a little too close to that information,” he said. Dr Smith said those pages are being revised to remove the close links to where readers of the information can purchase the products in question. But he said Life Extension won’t back down when it comes to talking about the role of nutrition in health and in the prevention of disease. The breast cancer pages on the company’s website, for example, still include lengthy discussions about the role of certain ingredients, such as curcumin. Life Extension will continue to sell products containing those ingredients, Dr Smith said.
“This (the warning letter) has nothing to do with how we will continue to write articles and protocols. We will continue to disseminate information about cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. Those protocol pages don’t link in any way to product suggestions,” he said.