As soon as we saw that they were from Utah, we knew we were in for a treat. Utah has not been described as the “Diet Pill Scam Capital of the USA” for nothing. With a list a mile long dodgy companies, FTC rulings and disappointed customers, it was time we took an objective look at Basic Research and the rest of the Utahans.
All the information we have found is in the public domain and has been previously documented in one place or another, but up till now no one has joined up the dots and brought together all of this information in one place.
We spent many days trawling through public records, and at times it was pretty soul destroying, but unless people know about these “scammers” then nothing is going to change and more and more people are going to be left disappointed.
So Who Are Basic Research LLC?
Basic Research are a LLC based in Utah, USA. They are responsible for a multitude of supplements and diet pills dating back to the 1980’s. They have a turnover of millions of dollars every year, but have a quite alarming track record both with the Authorities and with their customers.
You would think that they would have just the main company, and it then sold all their products from the same company. However they have a labyrinth of companies and brands, all designed to make tracking them down as difficult as possible. They say this is to stop competitors finding out what they do, however we suspect it is more a case of trying to make it difficult for people to get hold of them.
Who Are The People Behind Basic Research LLC?
We need to go back a few years, to the early 90’s when two of the original perpetrators of this sorry mess first got things going.
These were Evan G. Bybee and Dennis Gay, when they set up Basic Research LLC in order to start flogging supplements from the state of Utah. At that time they also met and teamed up with Dr. Daniel B. Mowrey.
This was one of the important factors, at the very beginning. By teaming up with Dr Mowrey they were trying to add an air of credibility to their products by implying that they were recommended by a Doctor.
BUT, and as usual in these cases, it’s a very big BUT. They declined to show that Dr Mowrey had no medical qualifications and had simply gained a Ph.D at the Brigham Young University in Psychology. Crucially this was to come back to bite them all, when the FTC issued them with warnings about doing this.
So What Was The Modus Operandi?
From an early stage there was a clear strategy in place. The two main protagonists, Evan Bybee and Dennis Gay, would use research, in a consultancy form from Dr Mowrey, in order to come up with supplements to push to the general public.
At this early stage, the main avenue for this was via mailing and advertising on Radio, Television and the Newspapers and Magazines. This was the boom time and with the use of clever copy-writing from Mitchell K. Friedlander, and marketing by Michael Meade, the money started rolling in.
A network of companies and brands was set up including:
Klein Becker (there is no Klein or Becker)
Tree House Marketing
Sovage Dermalogic Laboratories
XM International LLC
Evanstown Research Labs
Western Holdings, LLC
American Phytothearopy Research Labs (Dr Mowrey)
It was now that things started to ramp up.
Some of the first products to fall foul of the law were six of the heavily promoted weight-loss and fat-loss brands:
- Dermalin, Cutting Gel and Tummy Flattening Gel. These were gels that were applied to the body and contained the same active ingredient, Aminophyline in a lecithin base.
The FTC’s complaint challenges as unsubstantiated claims that Dermalin, Cutting Gel, and Tummy Flattening Gel cause rapid and visibly obvious fat loss in areas of the body to which they are applied. The complaint challenges as false the claim that published, clinical testing proves that Cutting Gel and Tummy Flattening Gel cause rapid and visibly obvious fat loss in areas of the body to which they are applied.
- Leptoprin and Anorex which were the same product under different names, especially designed for “significantly overweight” people. They contained a banned ingredient along with Caffeine and Aspirin which would go on to be made illegal in the US.
The complaint further challenges as unsubstantiated claims that Leptoprin and Anorex cause weight loss of more than 20 pounds in significantly overweight users and that those products cause loss of substantial, excess fat in significantly overweight users. In addition, the complaint challenges as false claims that clinical testing proves that Leptoprin causes weight loss of more than 20 pounds, including as much as 50, 60, or 147 pounds, in significantly overweight users; and that clinical testing proves that Leptoprin causes loss of substantial, excess fat in significantly overweight users.
- And Pedialean, a Glucomannen based product targeted at Children! This was one of the most disturbing products created at the time, to cynically target children with a diet pill is simply morally repugnant in our opinion
Dramatic, unsubstantiated weight and fat loss claims continue to tempt the overweight with new hope for a quick fix. It’s particularly disturbing, however, when marketers peddle such pills and potions for children without adequate substantiation,” according to Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection
The full FTC charges into this can be read here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2004/06/dietsupp.shtm
So What Was The Final Outcome?
Eventually Basic Research settled for a $3 million fine to settle the complaints!!
This sure sounds like a lot, but then when you realise that between 2000 and 2004 they sold over $66 million of the six products concerned, it suddenly doesn’t look like very much at all. Basic Research Supplement Firm to Pay $3M to Settle FTC Complaints
As a result of all this, Basic Research, along with all the associated companies and the main protagonists, Bybee, Gay, Friedlander and Mowrey were all banned from making “baseless weight loss claims” in the future.
So they learnt their lesson after that and started doing things right?
Sadly the answer is no, because of the massive profits they were making, it was a case of creating new companies and brands and starting all over again. After all, no one would know it was the same people or companies involved, so it was the Wild West once more. Lets think up a product, advertise it all over the place with completely unsubstantiated weight loss claims, give it the hard sell, then count the money coming in.
It came to a head again in 2009 after they had been punting another two products using the same tactics.
These “new” products were Relacore and Akavar 20/50.
The FTC had to bring another action to stop them once more!
The governments complaintalleges that Basic Research, LLC, Carter-Reed, LLC, Dennis W. Gay, and Mitchell Friedlander have advertised Relacore by claiming, without competent and reliable scientific evidence, that it reduces “stress-induced” abdominal fat more than diet and exercise alone, and reduces abdominal fat in those who diet and exercise but retain fat due to stress from dieting.
According to the complaint, Basic Research, Dynakor Pharmacal, LLC, Gay, and Friedlander also have claimed, without a reasonable basis, that Akavar 20/50 lets you “eat all you want and still lose weight,” and that it automatically restricts caloric intake with no willpower required of users to limit food or caloric intake. They also have misrepresented scientific research by claiming that a test proves those claims, and that the product causes substantial weight loss and causes weight loss for virtually all users.
Not only that, consumers who had been seduced by the claims made in the advertisements for Akavar in particular, decided to join up and fight the companies in a class Action Lawsuit.
This was eventually won, and on March 2, 2011, the court approved a nationwide class notice program.
Do they ever learn??
Basic Research LLC: Conclusion
With millions of dollars of profit involved every year in the diet pill industry, then you can see why it attracts these “scamsters.”
If you have a tried and tested formula, dodgy copywriters (Friedlander received a massive fine for ripping off customers. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1985-12-29/features/8503010133_1_mail-fraud-health-food-modeling),
a Doctor pretending to be medically trained, and your own battalion of pet lawyers at your beck and call, then its pretty easy to keep churning out product after product.
Couple this with connections in the Utah Attorney Generals office, and campaign contributions to the Utah Senator Orrin Hatch , and Congressman Jason Chaffetz http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/contributions/george-bybee.asp?cycle=10
Then you can see why it has gone unchecked for so long.
Be very careful who you buy your diet pill from, at the moment these same guys are pushing Zantrex-3 left, right and centre. Is this going to be the next one on the FTC list or a class action lawsuit?
Somehow, we have our suspicions.