Bayer Settles With States Over One-A-Day Prostate Cancer Claims

Last year we wrote that pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, was in trouble for making allegedly bogus claims about its <"">Men’s One-A-Day multivitamins. At that time, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) was suing Bayer for claims that selenium in the popular men’s vitamins could help reduce prostate cancer risks. Now, Courthouse News reports that Bayer Healthcare is paying $3.3 million to settle claims from three states.

Illinois, Oregon, and California accused Bayer of touting the supplement for improved prostate health; however, the drug maker “knew or should have known” that “for some men,” the products “may increase the risk of an aggressive and deadly form of prostate cancer,” quoted Courthouse News. Bayer settled with the attorneys generals of the three states, without acknowledge wrongdoing.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was quoted by Courthouse News as saying that, “Bayer sought to increase the sale of OAD Men’s Products by deceptively leveraging fear of prostate cancer.” Madigan noted that Bayer continued to advertise the so-called benefits of its supplement even after “scientific” claims indicated those claims were not valid, said Courthouse News.

In 2005, said Courthouse News, Bayer touted its Men’s One-A-Day with claims that its lycopene—which is found in tomato products—”supports prostate health,” but “the studies that Bayer cited were not competent and reliable scientific evidence sufficient to substantiate the lycopene prostate cancer claim,” said Madigan.

Last year, the CSPI contacted Bayer, demanding it change how it markets Men’s One-A-Day following a prior study—SELECT, considered the largest prostate cancer prevention trial—in which it was revealed that selenium supplements do not prevent prostate cancer. That, and another study, found that supplemental selenium could actually raise diabetes risks three-fold, said CSPINet.

Immediately following CSPI’s demand to Bayer, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its own letter that contained “qualified health claim language for use on labels,” and, among other things, that it was “highly unlikely that selenium supplements reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” quoted CSPINet. The letter put the Bayer in a position in which it had to change a good amount—but not all—of its marketing; however, it refused to recall existing stock containing the bogus information, did not remove false claims from some Men’s One-A-Day marketing, and would not confirm in writing that it would refrain from making those bogus claims going forward.

In 2006, Bayer “stopped emphasizing lycopene and started using selenium to support the prostate cancer prevention claim,” quoted Courthouse News. Meanwhile, although the FDA said in 2003 that selenium might reduce some cancer risks, “Bayer’s express cancer claims regarding selenium did not comply with the language FDA announced it would tolerate,” stated the complaint filed in Cook County Court.

Madigan also noted that Bayer created a so-called “promotional relationship” with Major League Baseball pushing One-A-Day Men’s products, saying, “As part of this promotion, Bayer engaged in a ‘strike out prostate cancer’ campaign that was ostensibly to raise money for prostate cancer research but in fact, was a vehicle to make deceptive claims that OAD Men’s helped prevent prostate cancer,” quoted Courthouse News.”Because of Bayer’s failure to take timely action, OAD Men’s Products with deceptive prostate packaging remained on store shelves until at least May 2010,” a full year after its promise to cease such claims, said Madigan, reported Courthouse News.

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