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Judge dismisses regulators' allegations against Utah company's weight-loss claims

Published December 8, 2014 5:00 pm

Courts • Ruling says agency failed to follow guidelines in evaluating scientific studies.
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A federal judge has dismissed legal claims brought by federal regulators who alleged that a Salt Lake City company was violating an agreement by claiming its products allow consumers to "eat all they want and still lose weight."

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that the Federal Trade Commission had overstepped legal boundaries when it alleged in a lawsuit filed seven years ago that Basic Research had failed to follow a previous regulatory agreement over marketing its weight-loss products.

While the FTC's role is to ensure advertising claims are adequately supported, the judge wrote, "implicit in that role, however, is the expectation of reasonableness." In a ruling unsealed last week, Waddoups also found that expert reports the FTC had relied on to rebut Basic Research's scientific evidence were "based on inaccurate and incomplete facts."



The FTC's expert used a higher standard to evaluate scientific studies on the company's products than were required either by a 2006 agreement between the parties or by an earlier ruling in the case, Waddoups found. That meant that the FTC failed to prove its claim that the research Basic Research relies on lacks scientific vigor, the ruling says.

The FTC declined to comment because the case is still pending. Basic Research did not return an email and phone call seeking comment.

At issue were products called Akävar and Relacore.

Two Akävar pills and a glass of water before a main meal automatically restrict food intake by making the user feel full, the company claims. Along with diet and exercise, Relacor helps reduce stress, a major component of weight gain, and therefore helps shrink abdominal fat, Basic Research says.

The FTC's expert, Edward R. Blonz, who has a doctorate in nutrition, had complained that while ingredients in Relacor may reduce stress, and Akävar created a feeling of a full stomach, there was a lack of evidence to show a direct relationship to the reduction of abdominal fat or weight loss.

The case remains pending over Basic Research's claim that its free speech and due process constitutional rights were violated.

Also still pending in federal court in Salt Lake City is a class-action lawsuit against Basic Research over its weight-loss claims. Basic Research had agreed to settle the lawsuit, then tried to back out, but U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart has required it to proceed with the agreement.

tharvey@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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