WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Trade Commission contends a Florida company misleads consumers by telling them one of its dietary supplements can rid them of fatty deposits known as cellulite.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, the FTC said Rexall Sundown Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., makes false and unsubstantiated claims to market its Cellasene supplement. The company denies the allegations.

Unlike most cellulite remedies, which are applied to the skin, Rexall's product is a pill containing ginkgo biloba, grape seed extract and other herbal ingredients.

The recommended eight-week regimen of the supplement costs $180 to $240, the FTC said. The government said sales totaled about $54 million last year.

Cellasene has been advertised in major newspapers, including USA Today, The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as on the Internet and in fashion magazines, television and radio.

By law, dietary supplements cannot promise to treat or prevent disease directly. The industry is shielded from government oversight by a 1994 act of Congress, which said the Food and Drug Administration may intercede only if the agency proves a supplement poses an unreasonable risk or is marketed as a drug. But the FTC, which oversees truth in advertising, has the authority to take action against companies that cannot back up their claims.

Cellulite is a series of irregular pockets of fat that cause the area around the hips and thighs to appear dimpled.

The FTC said Rexall, which claims Cellasene ``fights cellulite from the inside,'' had no clinical evidence establishing the pill's effectiveness. The FTC wants a permanent injunction to prohibit Rexall from making the claims. It also wants a judge to order that Rexall refund Cellasene's purchase price to consumers, said Darren Bowie, assistant director of the FTC's Division of Advertising Practices.

Rexall said Thursday it will ``vigorously defend the truthfulness of its claims'' for Cellasene.

``The commission's action completely ignores the sound scientific research into the effectiveness of Cellasene,'' Debbie DeSantis, Rexall's senior vice president of product development, said in a statement. ``Cellasene was designed and formulated by one of the world's leading herbal/pharmaceutical extract companies with foremost expertise in cellulite research. We stand strongly behind the product and its value to our customers.''

According to its Web site, Rexall manufactures dozens of nutritional supplements, including Pokemon children's vitamins, Osteo Bi-Flex arthritis cream and many herbal supplements regularly available over the counter. The site also shows clips of commercials featuring ``Jeopardy'' host Alex Trebek promoting the company's supplements.

In May, Rexall announced that it was being acquired by the Dutch conglomerate Royal Numico NV for $1.8 billion.

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On the Net:

Federal Trade Commission site: http://www.ftc.gov

Rexall Sundown site: http://www.rexallsundown.com