FTC Charges Chain of Weight-Loss Clinics
with Deceptive Advertising

Issues Consumer Alert on Diet Programs

FTC News Release
September 19, 1990

The Federal Trade Commission has charged in federal court that a chain of weight-loss clinics, operating in California, Nevada, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia, misled consumers by falsely advertising that, through its "medically-safe" program, consumers can adjust their metabolism and lose up to one and one-half pounds a day without exercise or strict dieting. The court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting these acts, and freezing defendants' assets.

The FTC also published a consumer alert on diet programs in conjunction with the lawsuit. The Commission's Facts for Consumers on "Diet Programs" advises consumers on questions they should ask before deciding on a diet program, and is available free of charge.

The FTC's complaint names Pacific Medical Clinics Management, Inc. (Medical Clinics), and James Norman Wells and Karin Lynn Norred. Although the FTC has brought many cases concerning diet pills and products, this case is the first against a diet-clinic chain in recent years.

According to the FTC's complaint, Medical Clinics, through television, radio and print advertisements, claim that their weight reduction program is medically safe and can produce an effective weight loss of up to one and one-half pounds a day by adjusting a person's metabolism. They also claim that their weight-loss programs would produce safe and rapid weight loss with little discomfort to the participant. Medical Clinics' weight-loss programs typically use an amino acid tablet supplement known as Growth Hormone Releaser ("GHR"), protein supplements in the form of powdered puddings and drinks, a potassium supplement, a daily multi-vitamin and a 1200-1300 calorie daily diet. Defendants represent that GHR, when taken before bedtime, will burn fat by stimulating growth hormones which in turn enhance metabolic rate. Some of defendants' customers have also received the prescription drug Synthroid, a thyroid hormone, which defendants claim will enhance or accelerate metabolic rate, according to FTC staff.

The complaint charges that Medical Clinics have falsely represented that:

In fact, the Commission alleges, defendants' programs do not produce a sufficient adjustment in a person's metabolic rate to cause significant weight loss and any weight loss that does occur is a result of the low calorie diet that is an integral part of the programs. GHR does not reduce a person's fat tissue, nor do the powdered protein supplements or Synthroid cause a sufficient adjustment in a person's metabolic rate to cause significant weight loss, the complaint alleges.

The complaint also charges that because the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug "Synthroid" to be safe and effective for the treatment of obesity or weight control, and in fact requires that the drug be labeled with a warning against use of the thyroid hormone for treatment of obesity, Medical Clinics' representations that their weight-control programs are medically safe and effective are therefore false.

The San Diego based company, Pacific Medical Clinics Management, Inc., has two clinics in San Diego, and has operated under several different names in four other states: Medical Clinics, Inc., which operates clinics in Las Vegas and Vienna, Va.; Georgia Medical Clinics, Inc., which operates two clinics in Atlanta; and American Medical Clinics, Inc., which is based in Houston, Texas, and has operated six clinics in Texas. FTC staff received a great deal of assistance in compiling evidence of the company's activities from the offices of the Texas and California Attorneys General.

The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California on September 17.

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