Two House Democrats are investigating advertising claims by Wyeth that promote its Centrum Cardio vitamin as a cholesterol-lowering product. The inquiry is part of an ongoing investigation of direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceutical products by the House Energy & Commerce Committee and its Oversight and Investigations subcommitee.
John Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, are seeking related documents following TV ads touting the vitamin as "the only complete multivitamin that can lower cholesterol," according to a letter sent Wyeth ceo Bernard Poussot. (The letter is not yet available on the committee web site, but we were sent a text copy by e-mail).
Centrum Cardio is advertised as the “First and only complete multivitamin that lowers cholesterol," and a TV commercial claims Centrum Cardio is “the only complete multivitamin that can lower cholesterol,” the letter states. Moreover, Wyeth’s web site indicates that users of Centrum Cardio can “Lower Cholesterol within a Month!” with “a natural ingredient derived from soybeans that blocks cholesterol absorption & significantly lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol.”
"We are concerned that these statements may be misleading to the general public and that patients with high cholesterol may erroneously substitute Centrum Cardio for a treatment plan prescribed by their physician," the congressmen write Poussot.
Wyeth's web site cites an interim FDA rule from 2000 that allows dietary supplements or foods that provide of 800 milligrams of free phytosterols to claim a possible reduction in heart disease. A daily dose of Centrum Cardio, which would be two 2 tablets, contains 800 milligrams of phytosterols (look at the very bottom of the web site for the small print).
UPDATE: A Wyeth spokesman writes us with this statement: "Wyeth Consumer Healthcare supports Centrum Cardio as an important multivitamin and the science of phytosterols. Wyeth will cooperate with the requests made by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Dingell and House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Stupak."