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Airborne Settles False Claim Charges

Dec 17, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Although admitting no wrongdoing, Airborne Health, Inc. has agreed to pay $7 million to settle investigations by 32 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia (D.C.) over how it has marketed and labeled its products, Reuters said, noting that Airborne Health had also previously settled two earlier claims.  Airborne is known for manufacturing dietary supplements with vitamins, minerals, and herbs it claims help support the immune system, said Reuters.

According to Reuters, Airborne had earlier  settled a class action suit for $23.5 million and also reached a $6.5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  But apparently, Airborne said these funds would be paid only if the larger settlement does not cover all consumer claims submitted by September 18.

"We're putting the dietary supplement industry on notice—snake oil sales pitches will no longer be given free reign," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement, quoted Reuters. "Our strong coalition of states will continue to investigate and pursue companies that make false claims about dietary supplements and other products," he said, added Reuters.

Airborne Founder and Chief Executive Victoria Knight-McDowell said in a statement that this settlement does not affect any of the company’s current products, "because it deals with language that had already been dropped from our advertising and labeling," Reuters quoted her as saying.  "Even though we believe the legal claims against Airborne were unjustified, we wanted to close the book on these legal and regulatory issues," Knight-McDowell added, said Reuters.  Blumenthal said that Airborne agreed to some prohibitions such as making claims over its products’ benefits, mandating where retailers place its products, and marketing any product that would involve a person ingesting in excess of certain amounts of International Units (IU) of Vitamin A daily, Reuters said.  News-Leader.com said that Airborne is no longer allowed to advertise that its products should be taken “at the first sign of a cold symptom,” as well as other claims in which Airborne implies its products can “can diagnose, mitigate, prevent, treat, or cure colds, coughs, the flu and upper respiratory infection or allergies.”

News-Leader.com pointed out that Airborne-Original is the top selling dietary supplement in its category and contains large amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamins A and E, zinc, and selenium.  The multi-state settlement involves all Airborne products, which includes Airborne-Original and any future products said News-Leader.com.

The settlement resolves the state and Washington D.C.’s attorneys generals’ allegations, said News-Leader.com, that Airborne made health-related claims in its “marketing, packaging, advertising, offering, and selling” of a variety of its products that were “not substantiated by reliable and competent scientific evidence when the claims were made”; that it “explicitly and implicitly claimed to sell a cold prevention remedy, a sore throat remedy, a germ fighter, and an allergy remedy without adequate substantiation”; and that it did not “adequately warn consumers about potential health risks to select populations,” said News-Leader.com.  This last allegation referred to excessive IUs of Vitaman A, specifically in pregnant women, noted News-Leader.com.


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