Advertisers of "The Stimulator" Pain Relief Device Settle FTC Charges
FTC News Release
December 5, 1996
Natural Innovations, Inc., company president Dr William S. Gandee, and World Media TV, Inc., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges stemming from the advertising and sale of "The Stimulator," a purported pain relief device widely advertised in an infomercial titled "Saying No To Pain." According to the FTC, the infomercial advertised without adequate substantiation that the Stimulator effectively relieves virtually all types of pain and provides immediate, long-term pain relief superior to that provided by medications and other treatments. Proposed agreements to settle the FTC's charges would require the respondents to have scientific proof to back up any pain relief or other health or medical benefit claims they make in the future.
"Unsubstantiated pain relief claims in these ads are of serious concern," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Millions of Americans who suffer from different types of chronic or recurring pain, desperately search for relief. Consumers who bought the Stimulator believing these extravagant promises may have wasted their money, and worse, missed out on more effective treatments. The FTC will continue to be vigilant in requiring solid scientific support for health and safety claims."
Natural Innovations, Inc. is headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Dr Gandee, an Akron-based chiropractor, is president of Natural Innovations and appeared on the infomercial. World Media TV, based in Carlsbad, California, creates, produces, and distributes advertising, including infomercials. The separate FTC complaint naming World Media in connection with this case alleges that the company directly participated in the creation and dissemination of the "Say No to Pain" infomercial on behalf of Natural Innovations.
The Stimulator, which sold for about $80, emits a weak electric spark when activated. Users are instructed to "touch the tip of the STIMULATOR to the general area in which you feel pain" and depress a plunger to generate electric sparks. The infomercial, hosted by television personality Lee Meriwether, featured endorsements by daredevil Evel Knievel, former basketball great Bill Walton, and several consumers who had used the Stimulator.
According to the FTC's complaint, the infomercial contained statements such as:
- "The pain is so excruciating and the relief is so wonderful. I mean, it's like no aspirin, no pain medication, no nothing you can take gives you that instant relief. I mean I'm talking instant. Within minutes I'm back to doing whatever I was doing before."
- "And the lower back, it's unreal how it worked down there. Because, like, my low back on the one side has always bothered me. And I zap it and it's like it relieves it, you know? It's like taking back ten years on my body. This is something that works on me."
- "Davrocets and Darvons and codeine. Tylenol with codeine. And since I've been introduced to this, I haven't used any of it."
The FTC complaints allege that, through these and other statements, the respondents have made the following claims:
- Use of the Stimulator will significantly reduce, relieve, or eliminate musculoskeletal pain, including back, knee and shoulder pain; pain from severe headaches; carpal tunnel syndrome; muscle spasms and strains; sciatica; abdominal pain; and pain and discomfort caused by allergies, sinus conditions, diverticulosis, cramps, and menstrual cramps;
- Pain relief from the Stimulator is both immediate and long-term;
- For treatment of pain, the Stimulator is as effective as, or more effective than, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and such treatments as physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and acupuncture; and
- The consumer testimonials in the ads reflect the typical experience of users of the Stimulator.
According to the FTC complaint, the respondents did not have a reasonable basis for these claims.
The proposed settlements would prohibit Natural Innovations, Dr Gandee, and World Media TV, from making pain relief or pain elimination claims for the Stimulator or any other device without competent and reliable scientific evidence — including, in most cases, well-controlled clinical testing — to support the claims. In addition, the respondents would be required to have scientific support for any future health or medical benefits claims for any product. They would also be prohibited from representing that any endorsement or testimonial represents the typical experience of those who have used the product unless the claim is substantiated or it is accompanied by a prominent disclaimer.
- In the Matter of Natural Innovations, and William S. Gandee. FTC File No. 942-3251.
- In the Matter of World Media TV. FTC File No. 942-3251.
This page was posted on December 23, 2005.