The Federal Trade Commission is taking action under the FTC Act and the Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act of 2018 (OARFPA) against the makers of Sobrenix, which was marketed to reduce and even eliminate alcohol cravings and consumption.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the makers, a company called Rejuvica and its owners, Kyle Armstrong and Kyle Dilger, made numerous unsubstantiated and false claims about Sobrenix, a liquid tincture made with a blend of kudzu root and other herbs and vitamins, and used paid endorsers in deceptively formatted advertising. The defendants also used bogus review sites – including one touting Sobrenix – to deceive consumers about their products.
As a result of the FTC’s suit, the defendants have agreed to a proposed court order that would permanently ban them from making any unsubstantiated claims about health care products or services, as well as require them to pay $650,000 to the FTC to be used to provide refunds to consumers.
“We will not tire in our pursuit of those who prey on individuals struggling with alcohol or other substance use disorders,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This case evidences the breadth of the FTC’s authority to pursue such wrongdoing under both the FTC Act and OARFPA.”
In its complaint, the FTC charges that the defendants marketed Sobrenix to consumers who were struggling with alcohol addiction, selling the product on their own websites as well as on Amazon and through Walmart with messages like:
- “STRUGGLING TO CONTROL YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION? Sobrenix is designed to reduce alcohol cravings and help you detoxify your body so you can successfully manage alcohol consumption. Even better, taken before drinking, Sobrenix’s ingredients help you stop before you’ve had too much.”
In fact, the FTC charges that Rejuvica and its owners lacked adequate evidence to support these claims. The complaint also details false claims by the company that Sobrenix was proven to reduce alcohol cravings and consumption.
The complaint further alleges that Rejuvica hired “experts” to appear on local television stations around the U.S. and Canada. These “experts” never disclosed in these appearances that they were paid by Rejuvica, and Rejuvica then highlighted these appearances in their marketing materials as “news” coverage, failing to disclose they were actually paid advertisements.
In addition, the FTC’s complaint charges that Rejuvica created fake review websites promoting Sobrenix along with other products sold by the company. These sites appeared to offer independent reviews of the products, but the reviews were written by Rejuvica employees under fake names or fake titles like “senior editor.”
The complaint charges that Rejuvica, Armstrong, and Dilger violated both the FTC Act and OARFPA.
Under the terms of the proposed court order, the defendants are banned from making claims about any food, drug, or dietary supplement’s ability to cure or treat any disease, including helping the user with alcohol addiction, unless they are substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence, including randomized clinical trials. The proposed order also prohibits the defendants from making other health benefit claims unless they are supported by reliable scientific evidence.
The proposed order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the existence, contents, or results of any scientific test or study. Additionally, the proposed order prohibits the defendants from falsely portraying paid advertisements as legitimate news coverage and requires that all paid endorsements be disclosed as such.
Finally, the proposed order contains a total monetary judgment of $3,247,737, which is partially suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay the full amount. The defendants will be required to pay $650,000 to the FTC to be used to refund consumers. If the defendants are found to have lied to the FTC about their financial status, the full judgment will be immediately due.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed final order was 3-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The FTC staff attorneys on this matter are Courtney Estep and Shira Modell of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final injunctions/orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.