CHICAGO (CN) - A dietary supplement maker misled consumers into believing independent studies show its drug helps children with speech disabilities, the Federal Trade Commission claims.
The agency sued NourishLife, LLC and its president Mark Nottoli in Chicago Federal Court.
NourishLife sells dietary supplements called "Speak" and "Speak Smooth," which purportedly assists children develop language skills, especially those who suffer from autism or verbal apraxia.
"Defendants have represented, expressly or by implication, that Speak is clinically proven to develop and maintain normal, healthy speech and language capacity in children, including children who have apraxia and autism spectrum disorders, among other developmental conditions," the FTC says.
This claim is "false," the complaint states.
Speak is sold in capsule and liquid form, and contains Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and other ingredients. A 60-count bottle of capsules costs $71.95.
On its website, NourishLife links to purported scientific studies touting the benefits its product, as well and numerous positive customer testimonials.
The company also owns the domain apraxiaresearch.com, which it uses to promote Speak while representing that it is an independent, objective resource for apraxia research.
"The Apraxia Research website purported to provide research and other scientific information relating to the treatment of apraxia. In fact, the website promoted the health benefits of an 'omega 3/vitamin E speech supplement' for children and reported 'Parental Feedback,' which consisted of testimonials from parents who gave their children a 'patented omega3/vitamin E speech supplement,'" the FTC says.
Kristen Gonzalez, chairwoman of the Autism Hope Alliance, also endorses the Speak product, but without informing potential customers that NourishLife has given her free products since 2012, the complaint claims.
Similarly, the parental testimonials printed on NourthLife's website do not disclose that "parents endorsing Speak products received complimentary products from defendants," the agency claims.
NourishLife has paid for advertising on Google for a sponsored link to its website in response to consumer searches for "toddler speech problems," "autism treatment," and "help my child talk," the complaint says.
The FTC seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting NourishLife from further false advertisement, or making more unsubstantiated claims about its product. It also wants NourishLife to refund all ill-gotten monies.
The FTC is represented by in-house counsel Laura Sullivan.
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