A company and its former subsidiary have settled with the US Federal Trade Commission, which said the companies' advertising claims regarding their genetically tailored nutritional supplements and skincare products were deceptive.
In their marketing material, GeneLink and Foru said that their customized products — customers sent in cheek swabs for genetic analysis — could help overcome genetic shortcomings, according to the FTC. For instance, included testimonials said that the supplements could treat diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and insomnia, and that the effectiveness of the skin repair serum was scientifically proven. In addition, FTC says the companies did not have appropriate safeguards to ensure the privacy of customers' genetic information, Social Security numbers, and bank account information.
As part of the proposed settlement, the companies would be barred from making claims that their products prevent, treat, or reduce the risk of any disease unless it is true and backed up by at least two well-controlled studies. In addition, any claim saying that a product treats or prevents a disease in someone with certain genetic variation has to be shown through randomized clinical trials. The companies also would have to establish information security programs
"This case is about the consequences of making false claims," says Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "It doesn't matter whether the claims deal with the benefits of direct-to-consumer genetic testing or the privacy of personal information. It's against the law to deceive people about your product and to make promises you don't keep."
FTC has also recently posted a fact sheet on its site regarding direct-to-consumer genetic testing. There, it warns some "tests lack scientific validity, and others provide results that are meaningful only in the context of a full medical evaluation."