The Federal Trade Commission and the Maine Attorney General’s Office are seeking a civil contempt order against two companies that sell dietary supplements, alleging they have continued to promote their products with unproven claims that they can treat and cure diseases, in violation of a 2018 FTC settlement order.

The agencies’ contempt motion states that Health Research Laboratories LLC, Whole Body Supplements LLC and their owner, Kramer Duhon of Dallas, violated the order by claiming without the required scientific evidence that their Ultimate Heart Formula, BG18 and Black Garlic Botanicals supplements could treat, cure or reduce cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis and hypertension.

The companies were sued in Maine because they distributed their supplements through Ship-Right Solutions, a mail-order fulfillment company based in South Portland. Ship-Right has done business with a number of companies accused of fraudulent activity, although Ship-Right itself never has been named a defendant in the cases.

According to the FTC, Duhon’s companies also mailed out advertisements claiming that another supplement called Neupathic cures, treats or relieves diabetic neuropathy and diabetes, also without the required supporting scientific evidence. The mailers touted the supplement as a “miraculous natural solution” for life-threatening diseases, it said.

By law, companies are not allowed to claim their dietary supplements have direct health benefits, such as causing weight loss without dieting and exercise, relieving back and joint pain or preventing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, unless they have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” in support of those claims.

In the 2018 FTC settlement order, Duhon accepted no responsibility for making unsupported health claims but agreed to permanently discontinue making the claims and pay a $3.7 million fine. According to the settlement terms, the fine would be suspended if Duhon and his companies paid $800,000 in restitution to victims. It also prohibited the defendants from misrepresenting the terms of trial offers, and from misrepresenting the existence of expert endorsements.

But on Dec. 17, the FTC and the Maine Attorney General’s Office filed a motion for contempt in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine alleging Duhon and his companies had violated the settlement by continuing to promote their dietary supplements with “outrageous claims.”

“Health Research Laboratories and Mr. Duhon have a troubling history of making unproven claims that their products can treat serious diseases,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. “We’re delighted to work again with the Maine Attorney General to hold these defendants accountable and enforce our 2018 order.”

The 2018 FTC settlement order stemmed from false and unsupported health claims made by Duhon and his companies about two other supplements, called BioTherapex and NeuroPlus, and required that the defendants conduct at least one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to support any claim that their products effectively cure, relieve or treat diseases.

In filing the contempt motion, the agencies are seeking an order permanently barring the defendants from the alleged illegal conduct, as well as granting “appropriate monetary relief,” the FTC said.

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