$500,000 In Consumer Refunds From Rite Aid After False Cold Remedy Advertising Suit

Remember the class-action lawsuit against the makers of cold-and-flu-preventing magic potion Airborne? Airborne claimed that it could prevent or shorten colds and flus, without any actual scientific evidence to back those claims up.

Rite Aid had its own similar natural remedy, Germ Defense, which was sold and marketed in its stores alongside Airborne. The FTC went ahead and charged Rite Aid with false advertising, and now Germ Defense customers are entitled to refunds.

The manufacturer of Germ Defense, Improvita, has also been charged with false advertising. If you bought Germ Defense tablets or lozenges, you’re eligible for a refund of the value of up to six packages of the supplement. From the FTC’s press release:

Like Airborne Health, Inc., which settled deceptive advertising charges with the FTC last
year for marketing its effervescent tablets as a cold prevention and treatment remedy, Rite Aid will settle similar charges for selling a purported cold-and-flu remedy under its private label. Rite Aid will pay $500,000 for consumer redress under the agreed-upon final order. The company is required to post a refund notice, along with postage-pre-paid refund request forms, in a clear and conspicuous location in the cold-and-flu aisle at each of its stores for 60 days beginning on October 1, 2009. Consumers will have until December 31, 2009 to submit refund requests for up to six packages of Germ Defense.

Also under the settlement agreement, Rite Aid may not claim that any Rite-Aid-label version of Airborne, or any Rite-Aid-label food, drug, or dietary supplement can reduce the risk of or prevent colds or flu, reduce the severity or duration of colds, or boost the immune system unless the claims are truthful, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

Rite Aid and Improvita marketed several flavors of Germ Defense lozenges and tablets as
dietary supplements that contained vitamins C and E, zinc, and echinacea. They claimed the products could reduce the risk of or prevent colds and flu; protect against or fight germs; reduce the severity or duration of a cold; protect against colds and flu in crowded places; and boost the immune system, according to the complaints. The FTC charged that there is inadequate evidence to support these claims.

If you’re eligible, make sure to wander by your nearest Rite Aid and pick up those forms in October. And be wary of the health claims made about any supplement that aren’t backed by actual, like, science.

Rite Aid to Pay $500,000 in Consumer Refunds to Settle FTC Charges of False and Deceptive Advertising [FTC] (Thanks, Mary!)

(Photo: el_en_houston)