A national chain of weight-loss clinics, one of which is in Tysons Corner, has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with deceptive advertising and misleading consumers by promising weight loss through a "medically safe" program that requires no exercise or strict dieting.
The clinics, operated by Pacific Medical Clinics based in San Diego, have promised they can adjust metabolism, enabling people to lose up to 1 1/2 pounds a day.
On Tuesday, the day after the FTC filed its charges in a federal court in southern California, a federal judge issued an order enjoining the clinics against making certain advertising claims and distributing a synthetic thyroid medication without an accompanying warning.
The temporary injunction against the clinics, operated in California, Nevada, Texas and Georgia, as well as in Tysons Corner, will be in force pending a hearing.
In advertisements that have run recently in the Washington area, the company promises, "Weight loss professionals will help to adjust your metabolism so that you quickly and safely lose those unwanted pounds and inches, yet you're never tired or hungry on their doctor formulated program as you will lose up to 1 1/2 pounds a day."
Besides placing limitations on the company's advertising, the injunction prohibits the company from distributing Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid medication, without an accompanying warning. The Food and Drug Administration says that Synthroid is ineffective for weight reduction in small doses. In larger does, the FDA says, the drug may produce toxic, life-threatening effects.
The order, which also freezes the company's assets, does not prohibit the clinics from continuing to operate.
A person answering the telephone yesterday at the Medical Clinic in Tysons Corner, said that the company would have no comment on the allegations. "We have received the papers. Right now we don't have any more responses," said the woman, who would identify herself only as JoAnn. The company's owners in California could not be reached for comment.
The Tysons Corner clinic, with more than 1,500 customers, has been considered among the most profitable of the chain's clinics, according to law enforcement officials.
According to the FTC complaint, the company typically distributes an amino acid tablet supplement known as Growth Hormone Releaser, powdered protein drinks and puddings, potassium supplements, daily multivitamins and a 1,200-to-1,300-calorie diet program.
FTC officials say ingestion of such products will not cause weight reduction.