Drug store CVS Pharmacy will stop making misleading claims that its “AirShield” dietary supplements can prevent colds, fight germs, and boost immune systems. CVS also will pay nearly $2.8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges. This case is similar to cases that the FTC has announced against Airborne Health which faced a $30 million dollar fine, and the drug chain Rite Aid Corporation which were slapped with a $500,000 dollar fine. All 3 cases involved them selling a dietary supplement that purportedly treats colds and the flu. That’s because both CVS and Rite Aid “knocked off” the wildly successful “Airborne” product made by Airborne Health.
“Students returning to college campuses and parents sending their kids off to school want to take precautions to fight the germs that can cause coughs, colds, and the flu,” said David Vladeck, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the FTC. “As the Center For Disease Control has advised, there are good practices to follow. But consumers should not be misled by false claims about the germ-fighting properties of dietary supplements. With orders against Airborne, Rite Aid, and the one proposed against CVS, manufacturers and retailers are on notice that they have to tell the truth about what dietary supplements can and cannot do.”
CVS marketed AirShield products by touting their similarity to widely advertised “Airborne,” which last year settled FTC charges for making the same kind of misleading claims. Like Airborne Health, Inc., the FTC charges CVS with making false and deceptive advertising claims that using its product would reduce the risk of colds and protect against catching colds in crowded places, such as schools, airplanes, offices, health clubs, theaters, or restaurants. The FTC alleges that the company had no evidence that the products could boost the immune system or prevent colds. The order also will bar CVS from making claims that any CVS-brand food, drug, or dietary supplement can reduce the risk of or prevent colds, protect against cold viruses in crowded places, fight germs, or boost the immune system unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence.