Supple Joint Health Supplement Drink Fails FTC Suit

Unsupported Health Claims and Misrepresented Endorsements Garner Fine

Cortaflex capsules joint supplement
Cortaflex capsules joint supplement. UniversalImagesGroup / Contributor / Getty Images

If you were swayed by the claims made in infomercials for Supple dietary supplement drink to purchase it, you were not alone. While the president of the company, Peter Apatow, made millions of dollars selling the product, he was fined $150 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a settlement over deceptive advertising and endorsements in October 2016. The fine was largely suspended due to the financial condition of the company and its president.

Supple is no longer manufactured or sold. No refunds are being offered to purchasers.

Supple Drink Makes Claims

"The answer for joint problems in a delicious drink. Clinically proven effective. Rebuild cartilage, regain joint mobility, relieve joint suffering—guaranteed! You'll feel better in 7 days, and better every week."

Those bold claims were part of the marketing campaign for the liquid supplement, Supple. The company ran an infomercial, "Smart Medicine Show" hosted by Dr. Monita Poudyal. The FTC settlement notes that she represented herself as an independent and impartial medical expert but was married to the owner of the company, Peter Apatow.

What Is Supple?

Supple was a dietary supplement drink. You could buy it pre-mixed in cans or as a powder to mix with water. The powdered version had 1,500 milligrams glucosamine, 1,200 milligrams chondroitin sulfate, nine vitamins and minerals (including vitamins C, D, E, B6, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium), and rebaudioside-A.

Rebaudioside-A is a pure extract from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which, according to the manufacturer, provides a natural way to reduce blood sugar levels. Supple was advertised as being shellfish-free, artificial sweetener-free, preservative-free, and came with a 100 percent guarantee that its label claims were accurate.

Indications for Use of Supple

The manufacturer claimed "Supple provides the body with the building blocks of cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin, to augment the strengthening and rebuilding process. Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural molecules that penetrate to the joints and help synthesize proteoglycans which give resilience to cartilage and strength to ligaments surrounding the joint." Simply put, the manufacturer claimed Supple improved joint health.

Directions indicated that you should drink one can of Supple every day, over ice or with water—and all at once. They recommended it as part of a two-step solution, the other step is a fitness program that includes strength training, stretching, and low-impact aerobics.

Legal Challenges to Supple LLC Ads

A class action suit was filed in 2012 by Arleen Cabral in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, case number 5:12-cv-00085, saying Supple LLC was making unsupported advertising claims. However, this suit was brought to a halt in 2015 when the Ninth Circuit overturned the certification of a class action. The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees ad claims, took action against the company.

Stipulated court order Civil Action No.

1:16-cv-01325-WCG against Supple LLC, Peter Apatow Jr., and Monita Poudyal requires the defendants to have scientific evidence to back up any future claims about pain relief, disease treatment, and health benefits. It prohibits them from making misrepresentations of scientific studies and falsely portraying endorsers as being independent when they are not. They were fined $150 million but the fine was suspended. It can be reinstated if they have misrepresented their financial condition.

Bottom Line

As with any supplement, whether it is in pill form or liquid, discuss the product with your doctor before trying it.

Discuss how to take it, how much, possible interactions with other drugs and supplements, and what are realistic expectations for the product. Discuss how long to try it and when to discontinue it if you don't see results.

While Supple maintained that its labeled claims were 100 percent guaranteed, its disclaimer read "The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." And when the FTC came down on them, there was no money left to back refunds to those who believed the advertising.

Keep your expectations realistic. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons no longer recommends glucosamine and chondroitin. They have concluded that they have strong evidence that these supplements do not help people with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.

Sources:

Marketers of Joint Pain Supplement Agree to Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising, Endorsements. Federal Trade Commission. 

Treatment of Osteoarthritis (OA) of the Knee (2nd edition). American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. 

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