A group of consumers say GNC deceptively labels its dietary supplements regarding FDA approval — or lack thereof. The plaintiffs state that required FDA disclaimers are hidden or not present on certain GNC products. These disclaimers tell consumers that the supplements are “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Failure to include these warnings make the nutritional supplements drugs, specifically non-FDA approved drugs. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Farron Cousins:                  The supplement industry is a multibillion dollar a year industry and GNC, one of the largest distributors and sellers of supplements makes about $3 billion a year from their products. But according to a new class action lawsuit, some of these supplements being sold by GNC are improperly labeled leading people to believe that they actually have health benefits that may not actually be there.

Joining me now to talk about this, is Scott Hardy from Top Class Actions. Scott lay this one out for us. I mean we, we’ve discussed supplements before. Not a ton of regulation on these, but the very few rules in place, GNC doesn’t seem to want to be playing by those rules, do they?

Scott Hardy:                          No, and it’s, it’s frankly really surprising that GNC would get nailed with this class action because they know better. They’ve been doing this for so many years and it’s always so cut and dry if you’re selling supplements. You know, you’ve got to have that disclaimer on there saying that it has not been overseen by the FDA and that you know all of your claims or, you know, saying how marvelous these things are and the magic pills and the magic beans.

The, you have to make it very evident that the FDA has not investigated any of those claims and for some reason it appears that GNC somehow forgot on some of their products and especially on these products that aren’t just, hey I’m trying to get my weight gainer going and get by beefcake status. No, these are products that are supposedly there to help men and give them a healthier body.

Or in this case at least one of them is a healthier prostate and you simply cannot forget to leave these disclaimers off of your magic beans or else you will get sued.

Farron Cousins:                  So we have a very clear distinction here. You know, the, as you pointed out, you’ve got the GNC products that you know, you get your protein, your creatine, all that kind of stuff, you know, cause you want to bulk up, you want to hit the gym. Then you’ve got the other supplements that people take because hey, I want to make sure I am healthy and I’m taking care of my body and that’s where things get a little gray because these claims that oh hey take this supplement.

This is going to, you know, help your prostate. It’s going to help your heart. It’s going to help anything you might worry about as you age. The, they haven’t been investigated by medical professionals. There is no real long-term credible studies to show the efficacy of a lot of these supplements that are sold out there. And they’re not telling people that.

You know, that, that’s supposed to be on the bottle, that these claims have not been evaluated by a medical professional or by the FDA. I mean you see it in the commercials. The very, very tiny fine print across the bottom of the screen saying that we might be making all of this up. We don’t know. And it’s also supposed to be there on the bottle too, isn’t it?

Scott Hardy:                          Exactly. You’re supposed to have those disclaimers on the bottle and then you can’t also put on those on the bottle, things like physician approved, doctor’s reviewed, clinically tested. If you’re going to start throwing out any kinds of those claims, you have to make it 100% clear that you’re throwing out these claims and the FDA has not reviewed said claims. Otherwise, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re going to get nailed by a class action.

You’re going to get nailed by the FDA on this because they’re already on thin, thin ice anyways, right. Because they’re sitting here claiming some health benefits. And as you said, heart, prostate benefits, with when there possibly might not be much science to back it up. So without any of this additional documentation, you’re going to get nailed. And I’m, I’m really surprised.

I’m not surprised that GNC gets hit with class actions regarding the claims for their products. I am surprised that they get hit with the class action for something that they know better than, you know, they’ve done this for too many years.

Farron Cousins:                  One of the other problems too is that these things aren’t cheap. You know, people are paying top dollar for these supplements. It’s not like the generic ones you see in a big box store, perhaps your local grocery store. You go to GNC because you’re serious about this, so you pay a lot more than you would buying this thing from a grocery store. And that’s also another part of the problem. The, these consumers believed they were getting something that was going to do what it promised to do, only to find out, oh, none of this might be true.

Some of it may be true. All of it might be untrue. Again, we don’t know. And as you said, I mean, GNC has been around forever. You know, they know better, they know what to do, and they’re, they’re making the conscious choice here to not do it and that, that’s what’s so disappointing about this. This is a conscious effort on this company to not do what they’re supposed to do here.

Scott Hardy:                          Exactly. They, they, they know what they’re supposed to do. They’ve got documentation. GNC reached $3 billion earnings in 2018 and you know, they’ve already been hit with investigations in Oregon, in New York. So the, this, they’re no stranger to this kind of drama and they should know that they can’t make these claims. I mean, heck, even the Super Bowl and the National Football League rejected their ads due to the claims that they were making. So come on guys, clean it up.

Farron Cousins:                  Those Super Bowl ads cost a lot of money. And when even the NFL and network TV is like, yeah, we’re going to pass on your millions of dollars that you want to pay us because we don’t, we don’t believe you. You’re, you’re advertising substances, they’re actually banned by the NFL. So that says a lot when they’re willing to pass on millions of dollars, you know, what this company is up to.

My best advice to anyone out there is looking to, to take some supplements, vitamins, whatever it is, do your research on it. A lot of these supplements, in many cases, have to be taken with another substance or need to be paired with it in supplement form, in order for the body to even absorb it. So do your research before buying any, any supplement at all. See if there are medical tests available because some of these have been evaluated by medical professionals.

Arm yourself with this knowledge and another way to arm yourself with the knowledge, follow the link in the description of this video. Head over to topclassactions.com. Sign up for their newsletter, get all of these stories and more delivered directly to your inbox every week. Scott Hardy, Top Class Actions. Thank you very much for talking with me today.

Scott Hardy:                          You’re welcome. Thanks for your time Farron.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced