In 2014, a judge sided with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a clash with Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals concerning the alleged use of unsubstantiated claims on supplement labels and marketing materials. The “misleading” assertions made by Hi-Tech? Describing some of their weight-loss products as “thermogenic” and a “metabolic aid.” The ruling left Hi-Tech, a Georgia based supplements provider and manufacturer, on the hook for $40 million in sanctions.
Hi-Tech’s president and CEO, Jared Wheat, doesn’t believe the FTC cared to discover whether the products in question actually contained ingredients that would kick-start thermogenesis or boost metabolism. Instead, he says, it boiled down to Hi-Tech’s refusal to put the products through a $100 million to $200 million doubleblind placebo study. “I remember thinking, ‘If I can’t call something ‘fat-burning’ or a ‘weightloss aid’ without a double-blind placebo study when we’ve been using ingredients that we know do those things, I need a new business,’ ” recalls Wheat. “In the past I’ve done double-blind studies that cost $30,000 to $150,000, but you can’t patent most of the ingredients [in workout supplements]. So by the time you’re done with a two-year, $100 million study, the fad might be gone or the compound might not pay off.”