If you watch television at all you’ve probably seen the ads for a product called “Enzyte herbal male enhancement” (read: it makes your dick bigger) that features a 50’s retro-reject named Bob who has a permanent grin, not unlike the Joker’s grin from Batman, plastered on his face. It’s the sort of grin that is suppose to communicate to you how ridiculously overjoyed Bob is at his bigger love muscle, but it always reminds me of the sort of grin-of-denial one might have after he had accidentally caught his new love sausage in the zipper of his pants.
You know the one I’m talking about, right? I don’t watch that much TV and even I’ve seen it dozens of times. Anyway, it seems some poor schlep who felt his wee-willy was a little more ‘wee’ then he was happy with decided to try the product and—surprise! surprise!—it didn’t work. So he did what any red blooded American male with no sense of shame would do: He filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.
David C. Parker of 4551 Lansmore Drive bought an eight-month supply of Enzyte for $399.60 in October 2001, relying on the company’s published claims that the product would enlarge his penis.
The product is distributed by what is now called Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals Inc., 1661 Waycross Road, Cincinnati. In his lawsuit, Parker claimed he relied on the company’s representation that “Research shows that after 3 to 4 weeks, most men on the Enzyte plan will experience some gain. . . . Depending upon the individual, initial results may take from 4 to 6 weeks.”
The lawsuit contends “the so-called ‘research’ referenced did not exist or did not constitute competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
Parker took Enzyte for the directed eight-month period, but “experienced no increase,” the lawsuit said.
Goldenberg said that the company no longer claims its product enlarges size but that Parker relied on the earlier advertising that included advertisements published in Esquire magazine and GQ.
I hate to say it, but this is one good thing that has come out of the popularity of shows like Jerry Springer on which people proudly display their crass insecurities like a badge of honor. In the past snake-oil sellers could rely on embarrassment and modesty to override any desire to seek legal recourse for products such as this, but these days most folks don’t have a problem letting their dirty laundry air if they think they can get a hefty settlement out of it. There’s certainly plenty of money to be had too. USA Today says Enzyte has 21,400 repeat customers at $99.95 a month for a whopping $2,138,930.00 a month in sales ($25,667,160.00 annually). I’d be willing to admit having a small pee-pee for a chunk of that change. Whether Mr. Parker will ever see any of it himself remains to be seen, however, because of that tricky issue of it being an herbal product.
You see “herbal supplements” are practically an anything-goes industry thanks to some serious lobbying efforts awhile back. In 1994 Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) which was later signed into law by President Clinton. This act basically limits how much control the FDA has over products that are considered to be “dietary supplements” and it effectively removes the need for the producers to prove their products are effective, or even safe, before they are allowed to sell them on the open market. So all those rigorous rules and standards the FDA has for prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs, well, they don’t apply to dietary supplements including products like Enzyte. Makers can go to market with limited proof of effectiveness or safety and they can make health claims up the wazoo based on their own interpretation of studies and the FDA can’t do dick about it. About the only thing the FDA can do is force a product off the shelf if it’s later proven to be unsafe, but by then the damage could already be done to thousands of people.
So, in short, the makers of Enzyte can point to their “Independent Customer Study” on their website as proof the product works even though all they did was mail a questionnaire with the product to 70 men and hope they responded favorably. Hardly a double-blind test and far from being scientific proof of anything other than the gullibility of a small number of men.
This is an issue for any herbal supplement that makes big claims like Enzyte does. It’s entirely possible that some herbal supplements may have some medical benefit, indeed some studies are showing just that, but the bigger the claims the more suspicious you should be of the product. It doesn’t help that these modern-day snake-oil salesmen have gotten pretty good at dressing up their products to look like legitimate prescription drugs. Compare the Enzyte logo to the Viagra logo on the left here. Viagra is a legitimate drug that has FDA approval and, as required, has the chemical name—sildenafil citrate—in parentheses underneath the brand name. Note how Enzyte has the words “suffragium asotas” under their brand name. Sounds kinda medical or scientific, doesn’t it? Makes the whole thing look a lot more legit, right? It’s not a chemical name, as this is an herbal supplement, so what is it? According to the Enzyte folks it’s a Latin phrase that translates to “enhanced sexuality,” but according to Rhett Martin at Harvard University’s classics department Enzyte’s makers might actually have meant suffragor asotis, a grammatically awkward way of saying, “refuge for the dissipated.”
What it should be is the Latin phrase “caveat emptor.”
Sources include: USA Today.com – Why is this man smiling? It’s not Viagra.
CNN.com – Herbal supplements: How they’re labeled and regulated.
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