Doctor Who Endorsed Sketchy Joint Pain Supplement Failed To Mention She Was Married To Company’s Owner

When you turn on the TV and there are one of those infomercials that pretend to be a talk show, you’re probably justified in questioning the bona fides of anyone endorsing the product being sold. Case in point: A joint pain supplement that not only made unsubstantiated claims about being able to treat medical conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, but which failed to mention that the doctor endorsing the supplement also just happened to be married to the company’s owner.

This is according to a complaint [PDF] filed this week by the Federal Trade Commission against the marketers of a joint pain supplement called Supple.

The supplement was marketed as being a treatment for joint, back, bone, and muscle pain, but also for people with chronic pain conditions like arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. The FTC says that Supple also claimed to restore cartilage and rebuild joints.

However, while supplement makers have pretty wide latitude with the sort of things they can “promote,” “support,” or “boost,” if a supplement crosses the line into making claims that it offers the same sort of relief as an actual drug, it may be called upon to prove those assertions.

The FTC alleges that the makers of Supple offered no such scientific evidence to back up their marketing claims, even though the marketing claimed that the supplement was “clinically proven” to treat these conditions. The product’s website had a “Research” tab that offered no actual research on this product, just a list of studies involving some of the ingredients supposedly used in Supple. None of that research appears to be directly related to Supple.

In an apparent effort to bolster the product’s bona fides, the Wisconsin-based company created a fake infomercial talk show, dubbed “The Smart Medicine Show,” and hosted by Dr. Monita Poudyal, whose endorsements of Supple also appeared on the product’s website and marketing materials.

Poudyal’s guest on the not-really-a-show was Supple owner Peter Apatow, who espoused the virtues of his product.

“If you just drink a can of Supple every day… it’ll help you get rid of all your pain, all your immobility, all of your suffering,” said Apatow. “You could stop taking dangerous pain drugs, you could avoid surgery.”

What Apatow and Poudyal failed to disclose is that they were married (they are now divorced), so when the doctor made statements like “Supple is helping countless Americans to live pain-free and mobile lives again,” without mentioning that she and her husband have a personal financial stake, the FTC says that’s a violation of federal law.

In all, the Supple makers raked in around $150 million from these allegedly deceptive claims. But per a settlement agreement with the FTC, the former husband and wife team are now on the hook for that amount — or at least they will be if the government finds out they still have any of it.

In the meantime, the former fake talk show stars — who did not deny or admit to any of the FTC’s allegations — are barred from doing the things that got them into trouble in the first place: making unsubstantiated claims about pain relief, disease treatment, and health benefits; misrepresenting the results of any scientific study; and deceptively representing that Supple’s endorsers are independent and objective if those endorsers have a close personal or financial stake in the company’s product sales.

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