Created in 2010, the Natural Products Foundation (NPF) Truth in Advertising Review, a self-regulatory program that identifies non-compliant advertiser promotions for dietary supplements, recently sent its 200th warning letter to companies marketing dietary supplements with illegal drug and disease claims, drawing attention to current regulatory guidelines.
“The NPF Truth in Advertising (TIA) Review is vital to the integrity of dietary supplements and the overall well-being of consumers,” stated David Brown, Chairman of the NPF Board of Directors. “The TIA Review represents the vanguard for educating industry members about the pitfalls of illegal drug claims and irresponsible marketing practices. A small minority of marketers have the potential to undermine decades of progress made by natural health initiatives. Our industry outreach and education efforts highlight problematic advertising and labeling issues while working with marketers to ensure that they are fully compliant with current regulations.”
Since the inception of the NPF Truth in Advertising Review, two-thirds of all warning letter recipients have acknowledged the issues outlined by NPF and worked to revise promotional content and advertising practices. Compliance rates continue to show improvement as the program moves forward, with 80% of 2012 warning letter recipients working to improve their ads.
“Our message is getting through—if a product makes a disease claim, it is categorized as a drug. If marketers misrepresent such products as dietary supplements, they’ve clearly crossed a red line,” noted Marc Ullman, NPF Legal Advisory Council Chairman. “Every dietary supplement marketer should understand that compliance needs to be part of their corporate culture,” noted Ullman earlier this year. “This is a critical aspect of maintaining our industry’s credibility in the eyes of all consumers.”
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by a recent report from the Office of Inspector General of Health and Human Services (HHS), highlighting non-compliant label language and disease claims. Responding to questions surrounding the HHS report, Ullman said: “As an industry we need to recognize—and we do recognize—that there is a problem.”
“Over the past three years NPF has worked case by case to rehabilitate advertising standards within the dietary supplement industry,” stated Mr. Brown. “From the beginning of the Truth in Advertising program, NPF has been focused on the problem posed by drug and disease claims. The NPF Truth in Advertising program review process has addressed this issue head-on, and will continue to work toward full industry compliance.”
NPF has initiated 100 new review cases in 2012, and sent 65 warning letters. When organizations responsible for drug and disease-related claims fail to address the issues outlined by the TIA Review, the cases are referred to federal regulatory bodies. Over the past three years, NPF has referred 47 cases to representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).