Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 19, 2009
Consumer group: Bayer wrong to claim vitamin type cuts risk of cancer
Consumer advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened to file a lawsuit against Bayer Corp.'s healthcare unit if it continues to claim its One A Day vitamins for men cut the risk of prostate cancer.
The advocacy group on Thursday said Bayer's television and radio advertisements, along with product labels, misleadingly claim that the trace element selenium in its One A Day Men's Health Formula vitamins helps prevent cancer.
The Washington based group said the National Institutes of Health, in a seven-year study concluded last October, found no evidence selenium prevents prostate cancer in men.
"The largest prostate cancer prevention trial has found that selenium is no more effective than a placebo," said David Schardt, the group's senior nutritionist, in a statement. "Bayer is ripping people off when it suggests otherwise in these dishonest ads."
Bayer responded by pointing to data from the Food and Drug Administration. "The claims made in support of selenium are based on a FDA-qualified health claim," said Bryan Iams, spokesman for Robinson-based Bayer.
The vitamins in question are One A Day Men's 50+ Advantage and One A Day Men's Health Formula.
"We stand behind all claims made in support of all of our products - including One A Day vitamins," Iams added.
The National Institutes of Health last fall reported that a 12-year, $118 million study of 35,000 men age 50 and older in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico ended four years early when a review of the data "shows that selenium and Vitamin E supplements, taken alone or together, did not prevent prostrate cancer."
The National Institutes of Health-funded study found an increased risk of diabetes in men who took selenium and who had high levels of selenium in their blood at the trial's start.
An FDA directive specifically mandated that a disclaimer be placed adjacent to and directly beneath a selenium claim, which Bayer offers on its vitamin packaging.
The Center for Science maintains the FDA health claim doesn't address prostate cancer specifically and that the Bayer Web site along with its radio and TV ads for the vitamins doesn't carry the disclaimer.
The Center for Science yesterday contacted the Federal Trade Commission asking regulators to halt Bayer's marketing of the vitamins. It estimates Bayer since 2008, has run at least 11 television ads and nine radio ads suggesting One A Day vitamins can help prevent prostate cancer.
"We haven't yet received the letter, but we can't comment on whether there is an investigation ongoing," FTC spokeswoman Betsy Lordan said.
More information on Bayer Marketing:
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· FDA warns 14 drug firms over Misleading Internet ads
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