October 27, 2010, Chicago Sun-Times

Deceptive pharma marketing: Bayer agrees to $3.3 million settlement

Bayer has agreed to pay Illinois and two other states $3.3 million after the pharmaceutical giant was accused of using misleading promotions when claiming one of its supplements reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer. In fact, a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan notes that the active ingredient in the supplements could actually increase the risk of the cancer. Madigan’s lawsuit was filed the same day the settlement with Bayer was announced regarding Bayer’s claims about One A Day Men’s Health Formula and One A Day Men’s 50+.

“Bayer knew, or should have known, that the ingredients in . . . the products do not decrease the risk of prostate cancer,’’ the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court states. “In fact, Bayer knew or should have known that for some men, high doses of the ingredients, . . . such as zinc and selenium, may increase the risk of an aggressive and deadly form of prostate cancer.”

Beginning in 2005, Bayer’s television and print ads claimed it’s men’s One A Day product support prostate health. Originally, the supplements contained lycopene, the substance that makes tomatoes red and which has been touted as an anti-oxident.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a letter saying that while “very limited and preliminary scientific research” suggests tomato products might reduce the risk of prostate cancer, there is no “credible evidence” that supplements containing lycopene do the same, the suit states.

In 2006, Bayer stopped promoting lycopene and instead began making similar claims about selenium — a trace mineral that can aid in detoxifying harmful chemicals from the body. But the suit says Bayer relied on a “obsolete” 2003 FDA letter rather than an updated study that “definitely showed that selenium was ineffective,” the suit stated.

“Because of Bayer’s failure to take timely action, (One-A-Day) Men’s [p]roducts with deceptive packaging remained on store shelves until at least May 2010,” according to the lawsuit.
Oregon and California were also involved in the settlement.

Company spokeswoman Tricia McKernan said in an email that “Bayer has agreed to a settlement . . . to resolve a dispute with those states regarding certain promotional claims previously made in support of our One A Day Men’s Formulas.” She said Bayer has stopped claiming that selenium reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Although Bayer agreed to the settlement, the company did not admit wrongdoing, McKernan said. BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporter

More information on Bayer Marketing:
· Consumer group: Bayer wrong to claim vitamin type cuts risk of cancer
· Bayer: Misleading Information About Oral Contraceptive Yaz
· Levitra marketing criticized
· Pharma Corruption: Former employee addresses Bayer Board
· Illegal Aspirin Marketing
· FDA warns 14 drug firms over Misleading Internet ads