MONTEREY, Calif. (BCN) — Facing charges of false advertising and the unlicensed practice of medicine, a dietary supplements company and its owner agreed to a stipulated judgement that includes a $1.5 million penalty, according to an announcement Tuesday from the office of the Monterey County District Attorney.
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Prosecutors filed suit against Monterey-based Health Alert and its owner, Bruce West, in June of 2021, alleging that the company made false and misleading advertising statements regarding dietary supplements sold through various marketing media. The ads, which prosecutors alleged targeted seniors, included a monthly periodical entitled, “Health Alert– When All Other Treatments Fail,” as well as the website healthalert.com.
As a result of the stipulated judgement, Health Alert is now required to pay a total of $1.5 million in civil penalties and costs, including an injunction prohibiting future violations. The company is permanently closed and will no longer do business in California, according to the statement.
Prosecutors said that the defendants falsely advertised that the supplements they sold could treat and prevent diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and other ailments, despite having no scientific basis for those claims. According to the announcement, it is illegal to advertise that a dietary supplement has a specific curative or therapeutic effect on conditions and diseases, unless such claims have been pre-approved and cleared for marketing for that specific curative or therapeutic effect by the Federal Drug Administration.
Defendant West regularly referred to himself as a “doctor” throughout his advertising campaigns, even though he was not and never has been a physician. The lawsuit further alleged that he provided personal medical advice to his customers despite not being licensed or qualified to do so.
Prosecutors said that some advertisements used by the defendants made sensational claims such as, “FACT: Dr. West has helped more patients than any other doctor in America, including big-name cardiologists.” and “Dr. West has used [supplements] to treat people with a broad range of health problems, including individuals who are at death’s door,” and “[Bruce West] has helped and cured more patients than any other physician or doctor of any kind, living or dead.”
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