Liproxenol Ad Claims Judged Improper
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
In July 2011, Australia's Complaints Resolution Panel, which investigates alleged breaches of Australia's Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, upheld a complaint about Liproxenol and ordered the seller (Carlos Lopez) to retract claims. The challenged claims had included:
- "a weight loss supplement that could provide you with more fat loss than prescription medications, but without the dangerous side effects",
- "it works amazingly well at fighting fat"
- "the proven, powerful metabolic enhancing ingredients to accelerate your weight loss faster than you have ever experienced before"
- "it works for everyone"
- "it works so well that even people who have had serious problems losing weight in the past are discovering the benefits of Liproxenol"
- "you helped me to lose 20 kilograms in 8 weeks"
- "with Liproxenol I actually ate more food and exercised less and still lost 20kgs"
- "this has proven to be the most effective diet supplement for my patients,
- "doctors recommend Liproxenol to their patients as it allows them to lose weight, without any nervous or jittery feelings"
- "has no side effects"
When asked to substantiate the claims, Lopez responded that "Our company is not an Australian company so the TGA regulations are not applicable." However, the panel concluded that that it had jurisdiction because the advertiser had used a .au domain. The panel further concluded:
Section 4(2)(g) of the Code prohibits representations that therapeutic goods are "infallible, unfailing, magical, miraculous", or that they are "a certain, guaranteed or sure cure". The Panel was satisfied that the advertisement guaranteed that the product would be effective, noting not only an explicit money-back guarantee but also words such as "it works for everyone". The Panel therefore found that this aspect of the complaint was justified.
Section 4(2)(i) of the Code prohibits representations that the goods advertised are safe, harmless, or free of side-effects. The Panel noted that the website advertisement represented the product to be free of side effects. This aspect of the complaint was therefore justified.
Section 4(6)(b) of the Code prohibits representations that therapeutic goods are endorsed by healthcare professionals. The advertisement contained a number of representations that the advertised product is endorsed by healthcare professionals. This aspect of the complaint was therefore justified.
Section 4(5) of the Code requires that comparisons made in advertisements must be balanced and must not be misleading or likely to be misleading, and prohibits the inclusion in advertisements of comparisons that "imply that the therapeutic goods, or classes of therapeutic goods, with which comparison is made, are harmful or ineffectual." The advertisement contained a number of comparisons that were misleading, as well as comparisons that implied that other therapeutic goods could be harmful, such as the words "a weight loss supplement that could provide you with more fat loss than prescription medications, but without the dangerous side effects", "the proven, powerful metabolic enhancing ingredients to accelerate your weight loss faster than you have ever experienced before", and "it works so well that even people who have had serious problems losing weight in the past are discovering the benefits of Liproxenol". The Panel therefore found this aspect of the complaint justified.
Section 4(7) of the Code requires that testimonials included in advertisements for therapeutic goods "must be documented, genuine, not misleading and illustrate typical cases only." The advertisement contained many testimonials that, in the Panel’s view and in the absence of any evidence from the advertiser, were misleading and not genuine, and which did not illustrate typical results that could be expected by ordinary consumers using the product. This aspect of the complaint was therefore found to be justified.
Section 7(3) of the Code requires that advertisements making weight management claims must have an appropriate balance between those claims and references to healthy energy-controlled diet and physical activity. The advertisement clearly fell within the ambit of section 7(3). The material did not convey the required balance, and indeed conveyed a message contrary to that required under section 7(3). This aspect of the complaint was therefore justified.
Lopez was then requested to withdraw the ad from further publication and publish this retraction:
An advertisement for Liproxenol, which we published on this Web site, should not have been published.
In the advertisement we unlawfully made claims that the product can aid weight loss, is endorsed by healthcare professionals, and is free of side effects.
A complaint about the advertisement was recently upheld by the Complaints Resolution Panel. We provided no evidence to support the claims we made, and the Panel found that the claims were unlawful, misleading, and unverified and breached the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code.
The Panel therefore requested that Carlos Lopez publish this retraction.
The full text of the Panel’s determination can be found at: www.tgacrp.com.au/complaints
Searching liproxenol.com today and with the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, I could find no evidence that he retraction was published. The claims on current Web site looks similar to those considered by the the Complaints Resolution Council. Moreover, Bill Sukula, Ph.D. did an extensive investigative report which found that some of Liproxenol's "before-and-after" testimonials match the text and/or pictures used for other products. He also found that the seller(s) set up "review" sites that are intended to look independent but promote the product and interlink to crowd the top of search engine results.
This article was posted on February 24, 2013.