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Public Citizen Urges FTC to Investigate the Advertising of HealthFair’s Cardiovascular Disease Screening Packages

Sept. 4, 2014

Public Citizen Urges FTC to Investigate the Advertising of HealthFair’s Cardiovascular Disease Screening Packages

HealthFair’s Advertising and Promotional Materials Appear Deceptive, Contain Unsubstantiated Medical Claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the direct-to-consumer advertising and promotional activities of the cardiovascular disease screening company HealthFair. The company’s advertising materials make unsubstantiated claims about the medical benefits of its screening packages and omit information about the risks of adverse health-related outcomes and financial harms that may result from the screenings, Public Citizen said in its letter to the FTC.

According to HealthFair’s website and print solicitations mailed directly to consumers, the company claims that its cardiovascular disease screenings have saved thousands of lives since 1998 and prevented approximately 1,000 heart attacks and strokes annually. These statements are misleading because HealthFair does not have evidence from well-controlled clinical tests proving that the screening tests save lives and prevent heart attacks and strokes in the general population its solicitations target. The FTC generally has required such evidence for those types of medical claims.

In addition, HealthFair’s advertising and promotional materials omit important information such as the type of individuals for whom certain cardiovascular screening tests are appropriate, evidence-based guidelines describing if and when such tests should be performed, and the risks of cardiovascular disease screening, particularly indiscriminate screening as promoted by HealthFair.

“The FTC Act prohibits advertisements that contain false or misleading representations or material omissions. HealthFair has violated these prohibitions in its advertisements and promotional materials,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “The company’s materials have duped large numbers of consumers into undergoing unnecessary and inappropriate cardiovascular disease screening tests, thereby exposing them to risks of physical, psychological and financial harms that can result from false positive screening tests, overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Given the scope of HealthFair’s operations, it is imperative that the FTC investigate.”

In June, Public Citizen sent letters to 20 hospitals and health care institutions urging them to sever their relationships with HealthFair. Since then: