Feds Urged to Halt False Statements on Ads and Labels for Menopause Supplement “Promensil”

UPDATE 9/20/07: Natrol agrees to discontinue certain claims after ruling by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.


UPDATE: 9/20/07: Natrol agrees to discontinue claim that “22 clinical studies can’t be wrong” and that Promensil is “clinically proven” to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances, after a ruling by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

WASHINGTON—A red-clover dietary supplement called Promensil is being deceptively marketed to women for the relief of hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Most of the research on the pills shows that it’s ineffective, says CSPI, which today is urging the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on the product’s deceptive advertising and labeling. Promensil is sold by Natrol, a publicly traded company based in California.

“Natrol’s ads for Promensil are some of the most dishonest we’ve seen for a dietary supplement in a while,” said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt. “It’s a shame that companies like this exploit the desire of women to find a safe, effective alternative to estrogen for the relief of their symptoms during menopause.”

The deceptive advertising for Promensil includes a recent television ad that calls it “the only supplement proven to reduce menopause symptoms” and ads in women’s magazines that claim “22 clinical studies can’t be wrong” in proving that Promensil eases hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause. In fact, most of the research on Promensil that looked at hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms—including the largest and the longest studies—found the red clover supplement to be no more effective than a placebo. The magazine ads also claim that Promensil promotes “heart health,” but most of the research shows that it has no effect on established risk factors for heart disease like blood cholesterol levels or blood pressure. (The risk of heart disease in women starts to climb at menopause.)

Ironically, Natrol's founder and Executive Chairman, Elliott Balbert, is currently spearheading a public relations campaign called "Just Like Me" to improve the image of the dietary supplement industry. A P.R. salvo of television and radio ads due to launch this fall is intended to close the “credibility gap” between companies and consumers that Balbert blames in part on “nasty” articles in the media.

“Consumers are right to be skeptical about a lot of dietary supplement advertising and Natrol’s Promensil ads are a good example of why,” said Schardt. “We hope that other companies don't advertise just like Natrol.”

CSPI conducted a detailed analysis of the scientific research on Promensil, and how it doesn't support Natrol's claims. CSPI’s letters to the federal agencies ask that the company reimburse deceived consumers, run corrective advertising to set the record straight, and pay a fine. 

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