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July 07, 2004
Canadian Gov Sues TrueHope for False Claims
Read more... Government & Schizophrenia
Truehope Nutritional Support Ltd, the developers and distributors of nutritional supplement EmpowerPlus, is facing charges under the Food and Drug Act for marketing their product without Canadian goverment approval.
The Alberta-based company claims that Empowerplus, a supplement which about 36 common vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants (the exact vitamins they include will not be disclosed by the company), is a cure for a variety of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. However, the Canadian government charges that the company lacks the compelling scientific evidence to back up their product claims.
Opinions regarding Empowerplus and the Canadian lawsuit come from all sides. Ron Lajeunesse, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Alberta division, is a proponent of the supplement, citing personal knowledge of its benefits and warning of increased suicides if it is recalled.
[Lajeunesse] said he knows many people who have been helped by taking Empowerplus. And he warned that withdrawing the product from the market could result in 'dozens of suicides.'
However, Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada drug inspector and a former board member of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, has a different opinion. "The mentally ill community is being targeted and being used in a business-opportunity way for a couple of lay people to make a good living."
The preliminary scientific evidence, while extremely sparse, is somewhat positive. A study in the 2001 edition of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry cites that 19 of 22 male bipolar patients had beneficial responses to the supplement, some lasting up to nine months. A small study at the University of Calgary (principal investigator: Bonnie Kaplan) had very preliminary findings to support these results.
An advisory issued on June 6, 2003 by Health Canada warns that taking Empowerplus could put one's health at risk.
Schizophrenia.com considers this product to be unproven, with risks that currently outweigh possible benefits. The product is, in our opinion, burdened by excessively positive marketing claims given the minimal testing the product has received, as well as by lack of information (the company won't reveal what is in the product) and very high costs - we've seen estimates that monthly costs can range from $60 to $700 (Canadian $ for a vitamin mix that would likely cost only a couple of dollars if purchased independently) - suggesting gross profit margins for the TrueHope "Nonprofit" in the 95% or higher range - which if not illegal, certainly is (in our view) of questionable ethics for a company/nonprofit (they seem to have a bit of both) that claims to be focused on helping mentally ill people. We recommend you avoid "TrueHope" - but read up on the benefits of other vitamins that have much more research behind them and are available for a fraction of the cost of the "empowerplus" products. For more information and research on Empowerplus, as well as expert opinions, see
Source: Calgary Herald, July 7 2004 (Section: News, p. A5)
Article Headline: Charges laid for sale of health supplement: Product alleged to cure mental illness
Posted by Julia at July 7, 2004 05:33 PM
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