‘Dream Away’ Diet Pills: A $162,500 Fine
A Van Nuys company that sells pills that it claims make dieters “dream away” unwanted pounds while sleeping agreed Wednesday to halt sales in California and pay a $162,500 penalty to settle a false advertising suit filed by Ventura County.
In a consent decree in which they admitted no wrongdoing, officials of the Nutri-Marketing Co. promised not to sell or advertise their product in California. In an interview, an official of the company said it will continue promoting and selling its Dream Away diet pills in other states.
A 42-tablet jar of Dream Away pills is sold by mail for $19.95.
“Our product does exactly what we said it does,” Frank Robinson, a co-owner of the marketing company, said after a Ventura Superior Court judge approved the settlement. “Our tablets are very effective.”
Not so, said Ventura County prosecutors who filed a lawsuit in September against Nutri-Marketing. Named in the suit with Robinson was Mel Corey, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who is a partner in the diet pill venture.
“The main ingredient in the pills was arginine, ornithine and lysine--amino acids that will cause no weight loss, in our view,” said Richard Brungard, a Ventura County deputy district attorney. “The only part of the product that worked was the 1,200-calorie diet that you were supposed to follow after buying the pills.”
Brungard said the action was filed after Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury saw a Dream Away commercial on television that promised: “Now you can dream away those extra pounds. Just take Dream Away before going to bed, and you’ll wake up the next morning slimmer and trimmer.”
When prosecutors demanded proof of the claim, Nutri-Marketing provided them with the results of a weight-loss test of Dream Away conducted by the Garfield Clinic, a Los Angeles medical clinic, Brungard said.
“Nutri-Marketing spent $30,000 on the survey and had the clinic get 60 people and put half of them on the pill and the 1,200-calorie diet,” Brungard said. “They put the other half on a placebo and no diet.
“And what do you know? Those on the pill and the diet lost more weight than those not on the pill and not on any diet.”
According to Brungard, the survey showed that the average Dream Away weight loss was 0.8 pounds a week. Dream Away advertising claimed an eight-pound-a-week loss, according to the lawsuit.
Dr. Emanuel Mojtahedian, supervising physician at the Garfield Clinic, confirmed Wednesday that such a test was conducted over a six-week period last year. He declined to release its results without permission from Nutri-Marketing. He confirmed that those taking the pill were on the diet and the others were not.
Nutri-Marketing’s Robinson said: “I’ve got thousands of letters from customers across the U.S. who have lost 15 or 20 pounds over a few weeks after using our product. We’re not saying eight pounds is average.”
Robinson said more than 500,000 orders for Dream Away have been filled since his firm launched a $2-million television ad campaign last year on 160 TV stations. Locally, Dream Away commercials were aired on KHJ-TV (Channel 9) and KCOP-TV (Channel 13), he said.
The pills are manufactured by a Torrance company. Each order is accompanied by a recommended diet, Robinson said.
“The amino acids in this product cause release of growth hormones while you’re sleeping,” he said. “It causes mobilization of fat--the layman uses the term ‘burning’ of fat, but we don’t. That’s what amino acids do.”
He said Ventura County officials, who have also sued other companies for consumer fraud, are trying to be “the Ralph Naders of California.”
Bradury said in a statement that his agency acted because “false advertising of diet products cruelly raises the hopes of vulnerable people.”
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