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Doctors’ Group Asks Nutri-System To Stop Using Its Name With AM-Weight Loss

May 8, 1990

CHICAGO (AP) _ The American Medical Association said it has asked Nutri-System Inc. to stop using the AMA’s name in advertising for the weight loss program, a recent target of lawsuits by people claiming health problems.

″The American Medical Association does not endorse that company’s or any other diet plans,″ an AMA statement said Monday.

Neither the AMA nor Nutri-System could provide details about the ads, though AMA spokesman John Hammarly said he believed the ads began in February and ran in both broadcast and print media.

Commercially administered weight-loss programs should be ″appropriate for the individual’s physical condition,″ says an AMA report on treating obesity in adults drafted two years ago by the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs.

The report, which the AMA cited in its statement, says such programs should offer proper medical supervision ″by physicians who have knowledge of the metabolic consequences of the prescribed regimen.″

″The AMA is thus particularly concerned by recent published reports alleging a failure of proper medical supervision in connection with the Nutri- System program,″ the AMA said in a May 4 letter to Nutri-System.

Nineteen women in Florida filed separate lawsuits against Nutri-System earlier this year alleging they were inadequately supervised under the program and that it caused them to develop gallstones. Most required gallbladder surgery. The gallbladder produces and stores bile used in digestion.

The company has said the lawsuits are without merit, suggesting that the gallstones in the plaintiffs occurred coincidentally and that the risk of gallbladder disease among the obese can be reduced by prudent dieting.

Nonetheless, ″Nutri-System has complied with the AMA’s request,″ said Tim Hermeling, a spokesman for Nutri-System in Willow Grove, Pa.

″We are reviewing the letter,″ he added. ″Nutri-system meets the guidelines of all leading health organizations. And we’d be pleased to discuss the issue with the AMA.″

The AMA also notified U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of a congressional subcommittee holding hearings on the nation’s $33 billion annual weight-loss industry, that it had asked Nutri-System to leave the AMA out of its advertising.

Nutri-System, with nearly 1,600 weight-loss centers in all 50 states, Canada, Britain and Australia, offers a 1,000-to 1,500-calorie-a-day meal program that can cost several hundred dollars to enroll in, depending on wight-loss goals and special promotions offered.

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