For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: December 16, 2008
Makers of Airborne Settle Deceptive Advertising Complaints
(Boise) – The makers of Airborne dietary supplements will change the way they market their products as a result of a settlement with Idaho, 31 other states and the District of Columbia, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
Airborne – Original is the number one selling dietary supplement in its category and is sold at most major retailers. It consists of Vitamin A, E, zinc, selenium and large doses of Vitamin C. Airborne – Original and a variety of related products are manufactured and sold by Florida-based Airborne Health, Inc. Today’s settlement covers all Airborne products and any substantially similar future products.
“We took action to address unsubstantiated and misleading claims that Airborne could prevent the common cold or provide relief from cold symptoms,” Attorney General Wasden said. “Under terms of the settlement, Airborne will not make any claims concerning the health benefit, performance, effectiveness or safety of its dietary supplement products unless competent and reliable scientific evidence exists to substantiate each claim.”
Specifically, Airborne is prohibited from saying “take at the first sign of a cold symptom” or making other claims that imply that Airborne can diagnose, mitigate, prevent, treat or cure colds, coughs, the flu, an upper respiratory infection or allergies. By law, advertisements for dietary supplements cannot make such drug claims unless the product has been approved as a drug by the FDA.
Airborne is the number one selling product in the cold and cough aisles of major retailers. Under the settlement, Airborne is prohibited from requiring, demanding or otherwise influencing where a retailer places Airborne products.
In addition, Airborne is prohibited from marketing any product that contains directions for use that would, if followed, result in an individual taking 15,000 International Units of Vitamin A or more per day. Excessive levels of Vitamin A have been shown to be harmful to certain people, particularly children and pregnant women.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit and the settlement agreement were filed today in Fourth District Court in Ada County.
In his lawsuit, the Attorney General alleged that Airborne made health-related claims in the marketing of its dietary supplements that were not substantiated by reliable and competent scientific evidence at the time the claims were made. The Attorney General also alleged that Airborne claimed to sell a cold prevention remedy, a sore throat remedy, a germ fighter and an allergy remedy without adequate substantiation to prove that the products could perform as advertised. In addition, the Attorney General alleged that Airborne failed to adequately warn consumers about potential health risks to select populations, including pregnant women, under old formulations of Airborne that contained 5,000 International Units of Vitamin A per dose. Currently, the level of Vitamin A in Airborne is 2,000 International Units.
The defendants, Airborne Health, Inc., of Bonita Springs, Florida, and its founders and current owners, Victoria Knight-McDowell and Thomas John McDowell, have not admitted to any wrongdoing and deny the factual allegations asserted in the Attorney General’s complaint.
The settlement with the states follows previous settlements reached with the Federal Trade Commission and a private class action, Wilson v. Airborne, Inc., et al., filed in Federal District Court in the Central District of California. Under the terms of those settlements, consumers could receive restitution from a fund totaling $23.5 million if they made their claims by September 15, 2008. Under the settlement reached with the FTC, an additional $6.5 million would be added to the fund if claims exceeded $23.5 million.
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