(photo credit: bteva.co.il)
The Supreme Court on Thursday recognized as a class-action suit a group of
osteoarthritis patients‚ legal action against the Altman/Ta’am Teva company,
which has claimed for years that the food supplement Mega Gluflex heals, treats
or relieves pain from the painful condition.
During the past seven years
at least, according to medical adviser Dr. Gad Shmueli who spoke for the
plaintiffs, the company has sold NIS 1 billion of the food supplement. Known
generically as glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate, the non-drug may not make
therapeutic claims for a food supplement.
Shmueli testified on behalf of
plaintiff Yitzhak Hoshen – an osteoarthritis patient who took seriously the
company’s radio and other media ads claiming initially that it rebuilds
cartilage eroded by disease, and thus improves joint movement and relieves
After complaints to the Health Ministry by patients who purchased
the NIS 300- per-bottle product that it did not help them, the company
downplayed the claims in its advertisements, quoting people saying the capsules
turned their lives around and making statements that the produce was beneficial
because “the body has no spare parts.”
Hoshen told Shmueli that he had to
undergo four operations on his joints even though he had taken Mega Gluflex. The
physician, who retired earlier this year, told The Jerusalem Post that he spent
a year studying the medical literature on glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate and
found that studies “showed Mega Gluflex has no proven medical benefits, only a
placebo effect that may help patients feel better only because they believe it
will ease the pain.”
Shmueli said that according to studies, the food
supplement goes through the digestive system and turns into sugar near the
appendix, without any active ingredients that build up cartilage.
Aviv District Court accepted Shmueli’s argument that Mega Gluflex provides no
medical effect and that the company’s advertisements were misleading, but
Altman/Ta’am Teva appealed.
The court said a year ago that there were
good arguments for applying for recognition as a class-action suit, and it
reached the Supreme Court. A three-justice panel of Asher Grunis, Edna Arbel and
Esther Hayut decided not to intervene on behalf of the company and recognized
the case as a class-action suit.
“Neither of the courts rejected any of
my claims,” Shmueli said.
The case as a class-action suit, which was
first applied for in 2006, will be returned to Judge Magen Altuvia in the Tel
Aviv District Court, Shmueli added.
Although the Health Ministry opposed
the advertisements, it and its legal department and the Attorney General’s
Office did not join the patients’ request for a class-action suit.
Supreme Court said it attempted to bring the two sides to agree, but it failed,
thus it had to decide on the appeal against the lower court’s ruling. The
justices said the company’s claims for the food supplement “appear to be
misleading,” as it makes therapeutic claims for the product even though there is
no research supporting this, including the lack of evidence that Mega Glufex
Thus, it approved the case as a class-action suit
in which the four plaintiffs are recognized as representing a large number of
customers and users over the course of years.
The company was charged NIS
10,000 in court costs.
Reacting to the Supreme Court announcement,
Altman/ Ta’am Teva – through its public relations company – said that the
Supreme Court “decided not to intervene at this time in the main
“The District Court decided that the food supplement Mega
Gluflex is effective against joint pain and helps increase the scope of movement
of those suffering from joint pain,” the statement continued. “The discussion at
present relates to commentary given to the version of old advertisements for
Mega Gluflex, and we reiterate our position that all the ads in the past, and
those in the resent,were and are true.
We thank all its hundreds of
thousands of customers who continue to show their faith in the company and the
Shmueli said the company’s official reaction was itself
misleading because the Supreme Court “did not intervene” in the lower court’s
ruling against the company and rejected Altman/ Ta’am Teva’s claims, thus
recognizing the classaction suit.