What’s Wrong with This Picture? – NOW’s SAM-e Class Action Suit

June 4, 2020

NOW recently made headlines by providing brand names of CoQ10 and SAM-e manufacturers that were found to be deficient in meeting label claims. A number of trade publications reported the story and iherb.com posted it on its website. Trust Transparency Center (“TTC”) has itself conducted tests on products containing coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), astaxanthin, curcumin, and lutein, and TTC’s  findings are similar to the NOW testing results. As part of our ongoing investigations into Amazon and other online vendors’ vetting practices, TTC has independently tested products, contacted the companies found to not meet label claims and informed them of our findings. The responses from the identified companies were typically one of these four:

  1. Fix the product problem
  2. Ignore repeated communications
  3. Discontinue the product
  4. Threaten litigation if we made the information public

TTC tested some of the same brands as NOW suggesting repeat offenders and very poor gatekeeping on behalf of the presumed online ‘gatekeepers’. It is interesting also to note that TTC did in fact receive a litigation threat from some of these same companies NOW identified suggesting intimidation was their strategy rather than contrition and compliance. In some cases, the products identified by NOW have been discontinued entirely, a positive development but in other cases, the companies named by NOW have discontinued offering the products on Amazon but are continuing to provide other products found to be failing assay. As can be seen from the published lists below, several companies failed for both CoQ10 and for SAM-e. In some cases, Amazon has discontinued the offering of the NOW named products, but the brand name products are still carried on the brand website. There is a current class action filed late last year in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Civil Action No.: 1:19-cv-22702-KMW) against several of these companies:

Vitamins Because LLC
CT Health Solutions LLC
We Like Vitamins LLC
GMax Central LLC
ASquared Brands, LLC

How these companies operate (the ones listed above, and in fact, all of those found to be deficient by both TTC and NOW) and how they participate in the online channel (e-tailers and their own websites) moving forward bears watching. It has certainly been disappointing to observe a lack of engagement and accountability on the part of the e-tailing community thus far. Responsible actors in our community have spoken of the product promise in dietary supplements, where a product contains efficacious amounts AND has in the bottle what is claimed on the bottle. We conveniently call these non-compliant companies ‘outliers’ yet many of these online brands are becoming quite prolific and larger players. We at TTC will continue to test and pressure this marketplace. We hope at some point to find willing partners in the e-tailing community to help us ensure a better industry.

The current environment, unfortunately, supports inconsistency, poor gatekeeping, non-existent or erratic barriers to entry and a marketplace and channel that truly exemplifies the statement ‘caveat emptor’ – ‘buyer beware’.

We sincerely hope that this will be a developing story in some frame or fashion. For now, it is our collective industry responsibility to look at the facts presented, the behaviors depicted by both brands and ‘gatekeepers’ and deliberately and pointedly ask ‘what is wrong with this picture?’

~Scott

richard151
Author: richard151

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Lori Diez combines compassion and excellence to lead organizations to their next level. A small-town Texas childhood taught her the value of hard work and relationships, which she uses to foster teamwork that brings results that have transformed cultures and programs to their highest potential. Her successful career in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sales leadership and event hosting has prepared her to deliver results as the COO of TrustTransparency, where she uses her industry knowledge to ensure that the company’s operations run smoothly as they support nutraceutical companies in their mission to help others. Lori’s passion for charity reflects her belief that individuals working together can change the world, no matter how small their contribution to the effort. This year, she looks forward to continuing over a decade of service at the Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo, where she will be the Chairman of the Livestock Committee.

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Glynnda Steinford, Trust Transparency Consulting’s Director of Customer Relations, brings over four decades of healthcare experience to her vital role in client engagement and relationship building. Her diverse background spans from administering medical groups to impactful stints in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sales, all underlined by her degree in Healthcare Administration.

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Caiti Dowden stands as a crucial pillar at Trust Transparency Consulting, bringing invaluable insight and expertise to her role as Senior Executive Assistant’ since her start in 2018. With an academic background from Sam Houston University and a career shift from education to the nutraceutical sphere in 2010, Caiti has cultivated a sharp acumen for dissecting industry trends and bolstering strategic decision-making.

Her transition from Data Analyst reflects her growth and deep understanding of the business landscape. Caiti’s commitment goes beyond professional excellence; she thrives on balance, drawing from her rich life outside of work to enhance her organizational contributions. Whether it’s family time, volunteering, or rooting for Houston’s sports teams, she believes in embracing experiences to fuel her professional creativity and insight.

In her current role, Caiti’s dedication to dynamic business analysis and operational support proves her to be an irreplaceable asset to our team, embodying the synergy of personal enrichment and professional success.

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Pam Hilpert, Chief of Staff at Trust Transparency Consulting, has been instrumental in the firm since its inception, leveraging her 17 years of accounting experience, including a significant tenure in the nutrition sector. Her collaboration with Scott Steinford spans various successful ventures, emphasizing her integral role in the company’s financial and strategic initiatives.

An alumnus of Sam Houston State University, Pam holds degrees in both Business Administration and Accounting, as well as an MBA, adding academic heft to her practical industry insights. Beyond her professional prowess, Pam is passionate about family, enjoys live music, delves into quilting, and volunteers at her church, reflecting her well-rounded life.

Her multifaceted expertise and longstanding dedication make Pam a cornerstone of Trust Transparency Consulting’s operational strength and team unity.

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Scott Steinford, a trailblazer in strategic leadership, boasts a certified M&A background, having navigated companies from their genesis to industry prominence. His brainchild, Trust Transparency Consulting, born in 2007, stands as a testament to his dedication to ethical business practices and strategic foresight, offering industry stakeholders invaluable guidance.

Beyond founding and steering companies, Scott has enriched the business landscape with his insightful keynotes and prolific written contributions, emphasizing his commitment to elevating industry standards. His executive tenure shines in roles as CEO or President of for-profits like ZMC-USA and Doctor’s Best, extending to significant contributions in non-profit sectors.

Notably, Scott’s influence is a driving force in the CoQ10 market, where his leadership has significantly bolstered the ingredient’s global presence. His roles in various capacities, including as a New Hope Ambassador, keep the community informed, providing in-depth industry reports and insights.

An active advocate within professional associations and an Editorial Advisor for leading industry publications, Scott’s expertise is both recognized and sought after. With academic roots in Pre-Law and a Master’s in Law, his journey transcends textbooks, embodying real-world business acumen and transformative leadership.

Scott Steinford merges visionary entrepreneurship with principled leadership, creating a legacy of innovation, growth, and unwavering commitment to industry excellence.