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  • State sues the maker of 5-hour Energy

    Innovation Ventures made false claims, Oregon attorney general says
  • Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit Thursday against Living Essentials and its parent company, Innovation Ventures, makers of 5-hour Energy, saying the product fails to live up to its billing.
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  • Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit Thursday against Living Essentials and its parent company, Innovation Ventures, makers of 5-hour Energy, saying the product fails to live up to its billing.
    The lawsuit alleges that the companies repeatedly violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act by making deceptive and misleading claims about their products.
    For years, the Farmington Hills, Mich., firms extolled the virtues of their long-lasting, energy-boosting concoction. It turns out, however, that extra bit of energy-in-a-bottle — slurped down by thousands — is little more than an extra shot or two of caffeine.
    The suit alleges that the companies used print, television, Internet and radio advertising to claim that 5-hour Energy contains a unique blend of ingredients that provide consumers with energy, alertness and focus, when in reality the only ingredient that provides any effect is the concentrated dose of caffeine.
    "I used them to help get me through my MBA program," said James Collins, a local businessman. "Late nights, early mornings, sleepy afternoon classes. Probably averaged one every couple days for over a year. What drew me to 5-hour was that when I had zero time and not enough energy, I knew it was a quick shot of caffeine. I could get it down literally as I was walking into class. Instead of sipping on a 16-ounce coffee, I drank it purely as means to an end."
    The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah Circuit Court, also targets allegedly misleading labels claiming the product will not cause consumers to experience a sugar "crash." The suit also focuses on claims that the product has been recommended by doctors in a way that it has not, and that the product is appropriate for adolescents age 12 years and older.
    Virtually every major retail grocery and drug-store chain, along with convenience, automotive and hardware stores, carry the drinks. The suit estimates 5-hour Energy is sold at more than 100,000 retail locations nationwide.
    Tyson Pruett, a Salem accountant who grew up in Medford, places 5-hour Energy in the same category as Mountain Dew.
    "To me it was a useful tool," Pruett said. "You're talking about a lot less liquid. If you're going on a trip, it makes more sense than a Monster energy drink or Red Bull; 2 ounces is a lot better than a 16-ounce Monster."
    For more than a year, Oregon has been part of a 33-state investigation into the drink's claims, including a statement that "73 percent of 3,000 doctors" recommend the drink and that it is suitable for teens. Food and Drug Administration records contradict that notion, showing 92 "adverse incident reports" involving 5-hour Energy. Reports linked the drink to spontaneous abortion, heart attacks and 11 fatalities.
    In April 2013, 5-hour Energy delivered documents to Oregon's health fraud unit, but the specific amounts of ingredients had been redacted. Then in June 2013, 5-hour Energy filed a lawsuit hoping to prevent Oregon investigators from getting the unredacted information.
    "This lawsuit is about requiring truth in advertising," said Rosenblum, in a statement. "Plainly and simply, in Oregon you cannot promote a product as being effective if you don't have sufficient evidence to back up your advertising claims."
    Pruett said he has consumed enough 5-hour Energy to know its effects.
    "I know what to expect when I consume them," Pruett said. "Frankly, this doesn't change how I will use them."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.
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