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Regulators Crack Down on Abdominal Stimulators

April 01, 2002|SHARI ROAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Abdominal muscle stimulators may be popular, but legal authorities aren't enthusiastic about some of the health claims made by manufacturers of the products.

The Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on some of the devices and, last week, a Napa County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the advertisement and sale of Gymform Plus stimulators distributed by Industex USA and two other Industex corporations.

The device, which costs about $50, is sold over the Internet and in stores. A ban on the product in California was sought by the district attorney's offices in Napa and Sonoma counties on grounds that electrical stimulators can be used only by licensed doctors and physical therapists and that manufacturers need approval from state authorities to conduct sales. The stimulators are touted to firm and tone muscles by passing electrical current through muscles, causing them to contract.

The injunction only affects Industex, not other manufacturers or distributors of electrical abdominal stimulators.

However, Daryl Roberts, Napa County's deputy district attorney, says his office is investigating other companies that sell such devices in the state.

"We may have to bring more cases," Roberts said. The devices "are flat-out illegal. Second, the health claims are unsubstantiated and misleading. Third, the products are misbranded; they don't have the appropriate warnings on them [that] they are required to have."

Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Under federal law, electrical stimulators must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be sold directly to consumers.

However, FDA officials said earlier this year that the agency does not have the resources to crack down on all offenders and, instead, will focus its efforts on encouraging manufacturers to seek legal approval to market their devices.

The injunction on Industex muscle stimulators will hold until the case is settled or goes to trial, Roberts said.

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