Caught on Tape: Herbalife Cures Brain Tumor??

Caught on Tape: Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) Cures Brain Tumor? reposted with permission ABC News/Brian Ross, Matthew Mosk, Rym Momtaz and William Gallego

By BRIAN ROSS, MATTHEW MOSK, RYM MOMTAZ and WILLIAM GALLEGO

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/caught-tape-herbalife-cures-brain-tumor/story?id=23441488

 

Nearly 600 independent distributors of the diet and nutrition sales brand Herbalife were disciplined last year for making medical claims when selling the company’s weight-loss shakes and supplements, despite company policies aimed at preventing such tactics.

Herbalife revealed the internal figures after an ABC News undercover investigation found numerous examples of distributors boasting to potential customers that the company’s products helped treat maladies ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

A Staten Island, N.Y., Herbalife distributor even told a potential customer — who was actually an ABC News reporter wearing a hidden camera — that a woman with a brain tumor became symptom free after starting on Herbalife products.

“She used to shake like this because she lost control of her motor skills to the tumor and she said part of her cerebellum was deteriorated,” he said. “If you see her now, she’s like one of us here… Whatever it is that the product did, it helped her a lot.”

Herbalife executives told ABC News that the company had taken pains to prohibit such tactics.

“I am appalled to hear you say this,” said Herbalife President Des Walsh, when confronted with ABC News findings in an interview. “What is happening there is a complete and absolute violation of our rules.”

In training materials, Herbalife instructs its members to avoid such claims. “Nutrition club members may share their experiences from using the products, but the products are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or medical condition, and under no circumstances should there be any statements, advertising or implications to the contrary,” one such warning says.

Walsh said that based on the feedback the company gets from “secret shoppers” who conduct compliance inspections for Herbalife, the instances of improper medical claims are rare.

But ABC News reporters encountered them multiple times after going undercover into nutrition clubs and training centers run by local distributors in the New York area.

The company encourages members to use personal testimonials to sell their products and recruit new distributors. At one session in Queens, N.Y., a parade of members rose to talk about their personal experiences with the products. One distributor said before she started with Herbalife she was suffering from early congestive heart failure.

“Nothing worked, I tried everything before Herbalife,” she said. “I had to stop three or four times on a flight of stairs. I got on these products, and in about three days that dry cough that a heart patient has started to go away. And you can see, I have incredible energy, and I love these products.”

Another said, “Thanks to the product, I don’t have any problems at all – I don’t get sick at all during the year with a flu or cold or nothing.”

A distributor elicited cheers when she announced that Herbalife had helped her become pregnant.

“Before Herbalife, for my bad nutrition, my body developed a tumor, and for nine years I did not have my period,” she shared. “Then I met Herbalife, I start using the product, my menstruation problems go away, so I’m forty years old, I have my first pregnancy.”

In another Queens training session, there were similar claims. One woman, speaking to a large group of trainees, said she had been “taking the Herbalife products for a year. With these products I have been able to alleviate my problems with headaches, anemia, and my face numbness.”

ABC News first began its investigation to learn more about the operations of the multi-level-marketing business, which is now facing investigations from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Illinois Attorney General. At the same time, the company has been buffeted by heavy criticism from a New York hedge fund, Pershing Square, which has wagered $1 billion on the prospect that Herbalife would be shut down by the government, resulting in the collapse of its publicly traded stock.

RELATED: Bill Ackman’s Secret $$ Deal for Herbalife Whistleblower

Herbalife has defended itself, saying the company’s business model is a legitimate and proven success with 30 years of history behind it. The company has seen enormous growth in recent years, emerging from a history checkered by controversy.

That included legal action taken by the California Attorney General’s office against the company in the 1980s, in part, because of allegations that Herbalife was making exaggerated claims about its products’ curative powers. The company resolved the matter by agreeing to the terms of an injunction which forbids it from implying that any product “diagnoses, cures, mitigates, treats or prevents disease…”

Walsh said in his interview that the company remains in full compliance with the agreement.

Walsh noted the company has hired scientists — even a Nobel laureate — to help it develop products that support a healthy lifestyle. Richard Carmona, the former United States Surgeon General, joined the Herbalife board of directors in October 2013, and says he carefully reviewed the company’s literature and procedures before signing on. He said he would be deeply concerned if Herbalife distributors were selling the company’s products as medical cures.

“It’s serious,” he said. “You give people false hope. They may not go to their doctors. They may not take their medicines. That would be absolutely abysmal.”

A major area of growth for Herbalife is in “nutrition clubs” – neighborhood storefront locations where those interested in losing weight come to consume shakes and get coaching about their nutrition.

When an ABC News reporter showed up at one nutrition club in Staten Island, he was given a document resembling medical intake form to fill out. Then he was escorted to what looked like a medical exam room, where he underwent a test that he was told showed his cholesterol was high. The distributor recommended Herbalife supplements to “help you clean your cholesterol.”

The sales pitch concluded with favorable health news about some of the nutrition club’s other clients. Pointing to a photo of the woman he says was debilitated by a brain tumor, he smiled. “The medication she was taking for many, many years didn’t do it,” he said. “She started doing Herbalife. She changed.”

 

Comments (6)

  • tex2

    I wonder how Walsh kept a straight face while faking his shock.

    April 23, 2014 at 11:05 pm
  • herbs4mike .

    Telling what happened to you is fine. And there were a lot of those up there. Saying that you couldn’t get pregnant, and after taking Herbalife products for a few months you then got pregnant IS OK and TRUE. On the other hand the one about the brain tumor is from somebody else. It may be true and may not be, and according to the rules is illegal. You can tell what happens to you, always ok; just do not use the word “cured”
    I will give an example of a brain tumor testimony that WOULD be legal if somebody said it….. Before using Herbalife 1 year ago, I had a brain tumor (here is the MRI from the hospital…. having a picture is great), I couldn’t afford the brain surgery cause my insurance won’t cover that much expense. I started trying everything alternative but the headaches continued and were getting worse. One day almost a year ago, I started Herbalife. I noticed almost immediately that my headaches were less severe and not as frequent. After not having a headache for 6 months straight, I went back the the same hospital and saw the same doctor for another MRI, He could not explain why my tumor had gone away. Here is my MRI that is clean taken just 2 months ago. The Doctor said to me whatever I was doing to continue doing it. It only stands to reason that my body has the best chance to heal itself when it gets good nutrition. Thank you Herbalife for changing my nutritional habits…… I have never heard a testimony like this by the way. However, I do have a customer with an incredible epilepsy testimonial.

    Now I will tell you how I tell people about somebody else’s testimonial. Azita is her name, has a major issue of petit mall seizures. She has about 30 seizures a day. If you don’t know what they are, go to Youtube; this is how she showed me what they are. She tried Herbalife because her friend, was on Herbaife and losing weight. At first, she was apprehensive because she was worried about how the product would mix with the medication for the seizures. After reading extensively (she likes to read… she’s a teacher), she decided to give Herbalife a try for 2 weeks. Immediately, she noticed less seizures. The last I talked with her (about a month ago) she is having no seizures a day. She still takes her medication daily. However, all her life while taking the medication up until she started taking the Herbalife nutrition, she was having about 30 seizures a day. She has been taking Herbalife for 1 year straight now. And she rarely has a seizure, even on a small amount of sleep (one of her major triggers for her seizures). She told me that she has not tried not taking the epilepsy medication. She is very happy with her life right now as it is. We don’t know why she has had so much epilepsy all her life, and for the last year from 44 to 45 years of age during which time she has been on the Herbalife product, she has been virtually epilepsy free. But once again, it only stands to reason that when proper nutrition is fed to the human body, her body has the best chance to take care of itself.

    April 23, 2014 at 11:16 pm
    • tex2

      So, the story about Azita you just told is illegal.

      April 23, 2014 at 11:29 pm
  • RJ

    Misleading claims are the norm, not the exception.

    April 24, 2014 at 12:29 am
    • tex2

      Would you be willing to expand on that? Thanks.

      June 28, 2014 at 10:01 am
  • jgs

    I remember, when I went to a first hl seminar in Bolivia, a string of successful distributors one after another convincingly recited claims about the health benefits of consuming hl products: “since I take hl products, my hair doesn’t fall anymore…”, “my back pains are gone”, “no more headaches”, and more that I don’t remember. After that a doctor, who maybe is/was a distributor, affirmatively said that those ailments are the result of poor nutrition that can be healed consuming hl products.

    In the first part of the next seminar, the same doctor said what struck me as a sillily outrageous claim: “hl products are the solution to the malnutrition problems in Bolivia.” I think that he saw me snickering at his ludicrous affirmation, I just wonder how many people believed that. Anyway, in my naiveness, I paid for the distributorship only to next learn that I had to “invest” at least a couple of thousands of dollars to make a minimally sound business. I ran far and away at that point.

    Fastforward some five years, now in Bolivia there are a lot of those “nutrition clubs”, which are run as illegal restaurants, it’s very easy to know as there always are some people near the entrances running “nutrition surveys”.

    Sadly, one of my friends runs one of those club/restaurants, and he is totally invested into it, and when I visited him, he invited me a tea but didn’t want me to pay, perhaps because I asked if he invoiced as required by law (I never meant to cause any damage to him, I was just wondering). He rather started to try to recruit me, first telling me how a wonderful business he owns, and then he asked: “are you good at internet and computers? If so, you can make lots of money”. He systematically refused to explain how the business actually works or how much do I have to spend. He doesn’t know that I paid for a distributorship long ago.

    As I brushed away all his attempts to impress me, he somehow turned sour and while he still greets me, he doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. Sadly his “nutrition club” is seemingly vital to him. He was a promising medical doctor now turned mere recruiter. How sad. Salaries for newly minted medical doctors are rather low, but over the long term they can get to make real good money and value for all. I see that as a true loss for our society.

    So, herbalife cost me a hundred and something dollars and at least one friend. And to my country at least one good doctor.

    April 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm

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