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FTC: Firms Can No Longer Make Shark Cartilage/Cancer Claims

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FTC: Firms Can No Longer Make Shark Cartilage/Cancer Claims

WASHINGTON--The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on June 30 ordered two companies to stop making [untrue] claims that shark cartilage can treat cancer. The FTC found them guilty of conspiring to deceptively market two products with no proof of efficacy and unsubstantiated clinical studies. It fined one of the companies $1 million for false advertising. After months of contention on the grounds that the FTC charges were "groundless," the companies agreed to settle with the FTC. The claim was settled with no admission of wrongdoing.

The two companies, Allendale, N.J.-based Lane Labs and Short Hills, N.J.-based Cartilage Consultants, jointly marketed BeneFin, a shark cartilage product, and SkinAnswer, a topical cream. Both products carried claims which said they were "clinically proven" to cure cancer and that the products had been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),. The companies inserted the phrases "non-toxic cancer therapy," "cancer treatment" and "cancer survivor" into its Internet metatags, which drive consumers using a search engine to a particular site.

Lane Labs-USA Inc. sells BeneFin for $86.95 per 270-caplet bottle. President of Lane Labs, Andrew Lane, and Lane Labs-USA Inc. will pay a $1 million fine for causing injury to consumers, a serious offense. Cartilage Consultants' president, I. William Lane [Andrew's father], will not be fined.

Lane Labs says it has been "targeted" by the government. The company has warned other manufacturers that this settlement may mark the beginning of an "open season" on supplement manufacturers. According to Lane, the FTC and FDA are "extremely powerful government agencies with many options at their disposal to wreak financial havoc on an emerging company like Lane Labs. It's an intimidation process."

The FTC brought charges against Lane Labs as part of its "Operation Cure All" program. The program is designed to stop health fraud on the Internet. So far, the FTC has sent advisory letters to more than 800 companies. [Consumers can get tips on how to spot this type of fraud at www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-health.htm.]

Terms of the settlement include paying $550,000 directly to the FTC and putting another $450,000 into a Phase III cancer study of BeneFin being conducted at the Mayo Clinic. The study is supported by the FTC, which considers it a tool for evaluating the effectiveness of shark cartilage therapy and serving public interest.

Lane Labs is not prohibited from continuing to sell the product--without the claims--or providing unbiased third-party research. The research can be found at www.publishedresearch.com. Lane Labs can be found at www.lanelabs.com. FTC statements are available at www.ftc.gov.

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