Modere Exploiting Women’s Hormonal Health Issues for Financial Gain
New supplement line targets women with deceptive and illegal health claims.
At the beginning of the year, Asma Ishaq, CEO of California-based Multilevel Marketing – a way of distributing products or services in which the distributors earn income from their own retail sales and from retail sales made by their direct and indirect recruits. company Modere, introduced distributors to a new supplement line – Project 23 – which the company will officially begin selling at its Social Retail Conference in March. In the prelaunch video, Ishaq pivots from talking about serious women’s health issues to hyping the new Modere products for its distributors to sell:
Whether you’re dealing with unpredictable menstrual cycles, normal symptoms of PMS, occasional hot flashes and night sweats, or a low libido, you know, we often chalk our experiences up to simply being women, you know. But not anymore. Together we’re going to empower women to reinvent their hormone stories, starting with each of our own. We are going to break the period stigma. We’re going to embrace the physiological changes that happen in our 40s and 50s. We’re going to throw the conventional one-size-fits-all approach to menstrual and menopausal health out the window. I’m so proud to share with you a first look at not one but two new products delivering intuitive nutrition advanced with cutting edge bioceuticals for optimal hormonal health. . . . [F]or too long we’ve been blaming our hormones but now it’s time to empower them.
After Ishaq’s introduction, she turns the presentation over to Modere’s senior director of product sciences and development, Jennifer Anderson, who has a master of science degree in chemistry (not a PhD or MD) but who wears a white lab coat in the video (no doubt to convey the impression of scientific legitimacy). Anderson talks about each pill in the Project 23 collection (formulas one through three are for menstruating women and formula four, the “Menopause Formula,” is for peri-, post- and menopausal women). Anderson claims that the company’s supplements can treat or mitigate the symptoms of a multitude of hormonal health issues despite the fact that Modere has admitted that it has no scientific evidence to back up the claims. (Specifically, Modere has stated elsewhere that “Several key ingredients have undergone clinical trials, however, the final Project 23 formula trials are still pending.”) Nevertheless, Modere makes numerous treatment claims for each of its Project 23 supplements in the video:
Modere to Women: ‘Reinvent Your Hormone Story’
Modere states its new Project 23 campaign will “bring a real solution to a market that has often been ignored and neglected” – a market surrounding women’s hormonal health that Modere estimates will reach $48 billion by 2027 and grow to $58 billion by 2030. The company asserts that its supplements will “reinvent [a woman’s] hormone story” and boldly claims that its new supplements are going to bring relief to those suffering from PMS, menopause, period cramps, sore breasts, bloating, heavy flow, stress, mood swings, brain fog, low libido, hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, among other things. Basically, Modere is claiming that it has developed four pills that will treat and/or mitigate the vast majority of symptoms all women experience during their hormonal cycles throughout their lives. Missing from Modere’s marketing messages, however, are the important qualifiers that pregnant and breastfeeding moms should consult with their doctors before taking these supplements, and that the supplements may not be effective for those using birth control pills.
Yet with no competent and reliable scientific evidence, it is troubling that Modere is marketing these Project 23 supplements as drugs that have the ability to treat, cure or mitigate the symptoms that derive from a women’s hormonal cycle. Pursuant to FDA law, no company can market products claiming to reduce, improve, help or assist with the symptoms of medical conditions such as PMS, menopause or hormonal balancing, among others, without going through the agency’s rigorous review process to prove that the products are safe and effective – a process that Modere has not undertaken.
Moreover, Modere’s attempts to evade the FTC’s legal requirements of having competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up its health claims by using vague qualifying terms like “supports” mood or cognitive health, or “helps” relieve cramps or ease bloating are similarly inadequate because consumers are likely to interpret such modifiers as proof that the supplement can achieve the claimed benefit. Similarly, the company’s fine print additions at the bottom of many its marketing messages that “These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease” are useless because the disclaimers directly contradict the marketing messages, are rarely seen by consumers and will not effectively negate the compelling health claims being made.
Modere’s Three-Phase Marketing Plan
Adding fuel to the fire, the company has developed a three-phase strategy for its Social Marketers (as it call its distributors). In phase one, distributors are instructed to reach out to women so they “engage and then move them to the waitlist of ready buyers.” With phase two, Modere instructs distributors to “post your face off!” It also counsels distributors to push other Modere products on those who are waitlisted for Project 23 supplements. And while women are waiting, Modere tells its distributors to “[s]tart creating FOMO with testimonials #ReinventYourHormoneStory in your consumer groups.” And not surprisingly, phase three is all about recruitment, which can be a warning sign that a company may actually be a pyramid scheme.
Social Marketers guided by the company’s three-phase plan are flooding social media platforms with deceptive marketing messages they have learned from the company, making claims that Project 23 supplements:
- Naturally treat heavy flow, menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, skin congestion, hot flashes, hormones, moodiness, brain fog and energy
- Project 23 is for women who suffer “from PMS, cramps, bloating, low energy, low iron levels, UTI’s, low libido, mental clarity, thyroid levels, inflammation, skin issues, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood…..basically all the terrible things our hormones and cycles can do to us women.”
- Treats all the causes of PMS symptoms and relieves cramps and bloating while supporting energy levels and blood flow
- No more cramps, more energy, no bloat, better mood, sleeping sound, no more hot flashes, no more night sweats, healthy libido, flow not heavy, stress and anxiety levels down
- Deeper sleep, improved word retrieval, less brain fog, weight loss, improved skin/less acne, less bloating, lighter period, less cramping
- Addresses unpredictable menstrual cycles, terrible PMS, cramping, low libido, hormonal skin issues, occasional hot flashes and night sweats
Distributors have also begun to take the marketing of Project 23 to new heights based on careless and uninformed statements by Modere like, “[l]ong-term use of hormones … has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers… .” As a result, some distributors are claiming that the Project 23 supplements will save lives because women will no longer have to take hormone replacement therapy to treat or mitigate their menopausal symptoms, and that the pills will regulate hormones without hormone therapy. TINA.org, who first learned about Modere’s deceptive health claims from several consumer tips, has collected more than 150 deceptive and illegal health claims made by Modere and its distributors in January. (During our investigation, we also collected misleading and inappropriate income claims.) Here are some of the additional deceptive and illegal health claims TINA.org collected:
Project 23 Ingredients
With treatment claims like those above, one would think that these pills must contain some powerful and novel ingredients but that is not the case – the supplements are simply a mix of well-known, commonly used herbs, vitamins and minerals that consumers can readily find at supplement or health food stores.
What Should Women Do
Modere is right about one thing: for far too long, women have silently suffered with issues surrounding their hormonal cycles without appropriate counsel or support. Indeed, more than 90 percent of women suffer from premenstrual symptoms and approximately 85 percent of women experience menopausal symptoms. And while many women believe that there is no recourse for often debilitating symptoms, there are FDA-approved treatments that can help.
As with any health issue, the decision regarding treatment and what kind is best should be made in conjunction with one’s healthcare provider based on a woman’s personal health history and risk factors. But one thing is certain, possible treatment decisions should never be based on recommendations made by an MLM company and its distributors as they attempt to sell you on their products and business opportunity. As the FDA states, “Don’t get scammed by products making false claims about miracle cures for weight gain, hair loss, wrinkles or other problems that happen during or after menopause. Get the facts.”
TINA.org reached out to Modere for comment. Check back for updates.
Find more of our coverage on Modere here.
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