For several years in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Donald Trump encouraged people to take part in a pseudo-scientific vitamin scheme—all without expressing any concern about how it might potentially endanger people’s health.
Through a multi-level marketing project called The Trump Network, the business mogul encouraged people to take an expensive urine test, which would then be used to personally “tailor” a pricey monthly concoction of vitamins—something a Harvard doctor told The Daily Beast was a straight-up “scam.”
And when The Daily Beast asked a doctor for The Trump Network to defend the products, he wound up deriding the idea of “evidence-based” medicine.
The Trump Network ultimately failed, and its assets were sold off. But it was not just a marketing and business disaster—the actions of the all-but-certain GOP presidential nominee reflect his willingness to license his name to a product without fully vetting it: a casual endorsement of a serious matter, all with the flitting nonchalance that characterizes the many falsehoods he utters.
The project is just another example of Trump’s questionable business practices, from his Trump University (accused by many students of fraud) to his casinos (which went bankrupt so often) to his “tasteless and mealy” signature steaks. And it highlights an essential contradiction in his campaign for the White House. While politician Trump says that he cares about average Joe or Jane, his past shows a shocking indifference.
Trump’s peddling of these products without regard for their safety is emblematic both of his often-incurious approach to business and politics—as well as the dangers of a loosely regulated supplement industry. Based on the The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, vitamins (like the ones sold by the Trump) don’t require approval from the Federal Drug Administration.
Vitamin companies can claim to treat depression, eliminate psoriasis, or increase energy without a single human study proving that the things they’re selling actually do.
While the FDA urges the $34 billion dollar industry to refrain from “false statements,” and fraudulent labeling, it’s an order that’s hardly policed. The “grey area” that results is rife with distortion, and leaves consumers dangerously ill-informed about what they’re taking. A study from the Drug Testing and Analysis journal in 2015 found synthetic speed hiding in 11 different weight-loss supplements, potentially putting patients with heart conditions in danger.