NAD Finds GSK Can Support Certain Claims for Citrucel, Recommends Company Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims After P&G Successfully Petitions NAD to Re-Open 1994 Case

New York, NY – Jan. 10, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has determined that GSK Consumer Health can support certain claims for its Citrucel laxative product, but recommended that the company modify or discontinue certain claims, re-opening a matter heard by NAD in 1994.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The claims at issue were challenged before NAD by The Procter & Gamble Company, the maker of the Metamucil line of fiber therapy products.

Claims at issue included:

  • “The Only Fiber For Regularity That WON’T CAUSE EXCESS GAS**”
    • **Among the Top 5 National Brands.  Based on laboratory testing. Individual results may vary.
  • Citrucel (but not Metamucil) is “NON-FERMENTABLE.”
  • Citrucel (but not Metamucil) “DOESN’T CAUSE EXCESS GAS.”

NAD determined in 1994 that SmithKline Beecham – then-maker of Citrucel – could support claims that Citrucel does not ferment and does not cause excess gas, as long as the advertiser disclosed that the claims were based on laboratory evidence. SmithKline Beecham agreed to abide by NAD’s recommendation.

In 1997, P&G sought to reopen the case, citing extraordinary circumstances in the form of new laboratory data which it believed would cast doubt on NAD’s findings.  NAD determined that the “new” evidence offered by P&G did not constitute “extraordinary circumstances,” and denied P&G’s request to reopen the matter. In its closing letter to P&G, NAD stressed the importance of finality to the integrity of the self-regulatory process.

Here, P&G requested that NAD re-open the 1994 case and argued that a shift in the underlying science related to psyllium and digestion has demonstrated that psyllium does not ferment, effectively contradicting NAD’s earlier decision. GSK argued that allowing this challenge to go forward in the absence of any new data demonstrating a shift in scientific consensus would compromise the integrity of the self-regulatory system.  Specifically, it would mean that any case decided by NAD can be reopened simply because one of the parties advances a new theory which, it claims, would have impacted the results that were before NAD.

NAD weighed both arguments and determined that the existence of human studies directly related to the digestion of fiber in the human body – compared to the additional laboratory testing at issue in P&G’s first request – satisfied the procedural requirement of “extraordinary circumstances” and considered the challenged claims on their merits.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser established a reasonable basis for the challenged claim that Citrucel (but not Metamucil) is “NON-FERMENTABLE.”  NAD also determined that the advertiser established a reasonable basis for its claim that Citrucel does not cause excess gas, but concluded that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for the claim that Metamucil always causes excess gas.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “doesn’t cause gas” claim in a comparison chart found at its website or modify the claim to avoid conveying the message that Metamucil always causes excess gas.

Turning to the claims that Citrucel is the only fiber for regularity that won’t cause excess gas, NAD noted that the advertiser attempted to qualify this claim by stating “among the top 5 national brands.”  NAD determined that this disclaimer, even if clear and conspicuous, contradicts the main claim because 15 percent of the products comprising the marketplace also contain methylcellulose, the active ingredient in Citrucel.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “The Only Fiber For Regularity that WON’T CAUSE EXCESS GAS*” or modify it to avoid conveying a message that Citrucel is the only product with methylcellulose.

GSK, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “is a strong supporter of the NAD self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account.”