National retailer CVS Caremark must stop claiming its AirShield dietary supplements can prevent colds, fight germs and boost immune systems. The national retailer also will pay nearly $2.8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that advertising claims of the products were unsubstantiated.
“There is no credible scientific evidence that AirShield products, taken as directed, will provide any tangible benefit for people who wish to reduce their risk of catching a cold,” said Betsy Lordan, FTC spokeswoman.
The settlement, which is similar to prior charges the FTC filed against Airborne Health, Improvita Health Products and the Rite Aid Corporation that involved dietary supplements making unproven claims about treating colds and flu, will send a message to manufacturers and retailers that they must have science to back up their claims, Lordan said.
“The language on our AirShield product’s packaging was similar to that of the national brand, Airborne,” said Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman. “CVS is not directly refunding consumers. We provided monies to the FTC, which in turn will administer the refund process.”
Under the agreement, CVS will pay more than $2.7 million for consumer refunds. By using customer data associated with the CVS Extracare Card (data that CVS is turning over to the FTC), the FTC’s consumer redress administrator will begin the process of contacting affected consumers and returning the money to them.
The order also prevents claims that any CVS-brand food, drug, or dietary supplement can reduce the risk of colds, prevent viruses in crowded places, or boost the immune system, unless backed by scientific evidence.
The FTC claims that CVS marketed AirShield products with claims that the product would reduce the risk of colds and protect against catching colds in crowded places, such as school, airplanes, offices, health clubs, theaters and restaurants. The FTC said the company had no evidence that the products could boost the immune system or prevent colds.
DeAngelis said CVS re-launched AirShield in 2008 with new packaging consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement. CVS also agreed to pay $2.78 million to the FTC to cover the costs of a refund program for customers who purchased CVS Airshield from July 2005 through November 2008.
FTC officials say consumers should consult the Centers for Disease Control for information about seasonal cold, flu and H1N1 flu at cdc.gov/flu.