AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – An Austin-based company selling home detox products agreed to settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission that its herbal products don’t actually alleviate symptoms of opiate dependency.
The FTC filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Austin federal court against Catlin Enterprises and its CEO George Catlin, alleging violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and seeking an injunction to prevent further violations.
Catlin sells the products Withdrawal Ease and Recovery Ease, which are marketed to treat opiate withdrawal symptoms and help people overcome opiate dependency. He is responsible for formulating the products and participated in developing the advertising, according to the 14-page lawsuit.
The Withdrawal Ease website says that Catlin started the company because of his personal experience with opiate prescription painkillers after he was diagnosed with severe cervical spinal stenosis.
Withdrawal Ease and Recovery Ease are both sold in daytime and nighttime formulas, the complaint says. The daytime versions have combinations of vitamins and minerals, along with what the labeling calls proprietary blends of herbs and other compounds. The nighttime formulas consist of different proprietary blends but do not contain vitamins and minerals.
Catlin disseminated advertisements on www.withdrawal-ease.com to induce consumers to purchase Withdrawal Ease and Recovery Ease, according to the FTC.
His company claimed to be “the leader in home opiate detox since 2009” and that Withdrawal Ease would help “reboot” the brain’s natural chemical balance and function.
Another excerpt from Catlin’s website said: “The Withdrawal-Ease Opiate Withdrawal Natural Supplement System employs ingredients that have been proven efficacious under rigorous clinical trials. There is no other product like the Withdrawal-Ease System on the market today; it’s the most effective and advanced natural treatment for opiate withdrawal and detox that you can buy.”
The FTC says Catlin’s representations about its products are false and unsubstantiated.
It specifically takes issue these claims: that Withdrawal Ease can alleviate the symptoms of opiate withdrawal; that Withdrawal Ease increases the chances of a person overcoming opiate dependency; and that Recovery Ease significantly alleviates post acute withdrawal symptoms.
The company’s statements that clinical studies backed up its product claims are likewise dubious, the FTC alleges.
“In truth and in fact, clinical studies do not show that Withdrawal Ease significantly alleviates the symptoms of opiate withdrawal,” the lawsuit states.
A court order has since been entered to settle the FTC’s charges against Catlin. It prohibits the company from making health-related claims, including claims that its products can alleviate withdrawal symptoms or help with drug dependency, unless the claims are not misleading and are supported by scientific evidence.
The order also imposes a $6.6 million judgment against Catlin for consumer injury and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, but the FTC says the judgment will be suspended based on his inability to pay.
The settlement says Catlin neither admits nor denies the allegations of wrongdoing.
The defendants did not reply to an email seeking comment sent on the Withdrawal Ease website.
“Opioid addiction is a scourge that has affected millions of Americans,” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement about the case. “People who struggle with this problem need real help, not phony claims and false promises like the ones peddled by these defendants.”
The FTC is represented by in-house counsel Edward Glennon and David C. Shonka.