FDA, FTC Target Unproven Opioid Addiction Treatments

Agencies send warning letters to 15 companies over alleged “scams”

Federal authorities are cracking down on 15 companies that are making unproven claims about unapproved products’ ability to help treat opioid addiction and withdrawal.

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) jointly posted warning letters to the marketers and distributors of 12 opioid cessation products, while the FTC sent four additional warning letters to marketers it did not identify.

“The FDA is increasingly concerned with the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like opioid addiction and withdrawal,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “People who are addicted to opioids should have access to safe and effective treatments and not be victimized by unscrupulous vendors who are trying to capitalize on the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of consumers and selling products with baseless claims.”

The FDA termed the products “health fraud scams” and said they have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective. What’s more, they may keep some patients from seeking appropriate, FDA-approved therapies. Selling these unapproved products with claims that they can treat opioid addiction and withdrawal is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Making unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is also a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits deceptive advertising.

“Individuals and their loved ones who struggle with this disease need real help, not unproven treatments,” said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen.

Reducing the number of Americans who are addicted to opioids and cutting the rate of new addiction is one of the administration’s highest priorities. This work includes promoting more widespread innovation and access to opioid addiction treatments for the more than 2 million of Americans with an opioid use disorder. The FDA is taking new steps to make safe and effective medication assisted treatments available to those who suffer from opioid use disorder and to reduce the stigma that is sometimes associated with use of these therapies. Using products with unsubstantiated claims may prevent those addicted to opioids from seeking approved treatments that have been demonstrated to be safe and effective, delay their path to recovery, and put them at greater risk of death. In fact, patients receiving FDA-approved medication-assisted treatment cut their risk of death in half, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The FDA and FTC issued joint warning letters to 11 companies for their products: Opiate Freedom Center (“Opiate Freedom 5-Pack”), U4Life, LLC (“Mitadone”), CalmSupport, LLC (“CalmSupport”), TaperAid (“TaperAid” & “TaperAid Complete”), Medicus Holistic Alternatives LLC (“Natracet”), NutraCore Health Products, LLC (“Opiate Detox Pro”), Healthy Healing, LLC (“Withdrawal Support”), Soothedrawal, Inc. (“Soothedrawal”), Choice Detox Center, Inc. (“Nofeel”), GUNA, Inc. (“GUNA-ADDICT 1”), and King Bio, Inc. (“AddictaPlex”). The FTC sent four additional letters to other marketers it did not name.

All of the companies use online platforms to make illegal claims about their products' ability to cure, treat, or prevent a disease. Examples of claims made include:

  • “#1 Selling Opiate Withdrawal Brand”
  • “Imagine a life without the irritability, cravings, restlessness, excitability, exhaustion and discomfort associated with the nightmare of addiction and withdrawal symptoms”
  • “Safe and effective natural supplements that work to ease many physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal”
  • “Break the pain killer habit”
  • “Relieve Your Symptoms…addiction, withdrawal, cravings.”

The FDA and FTC have requested responses from each of the companies within 15 working days. The companies are directed to inform each agency of the specific actions taken to address each agency’s concerns. The warning letters also state that failure to correct violations may result in law enforcement action such as seizure or injunction.

Source: FDA; January 24, 2018.