CVS Caremark Corp will pay nearly $2.8 million in refunds to customers who bought its AirShield supplements to prevent illness. The Federal Trade Commission accused CVS of making unsubstantiated claims that AirShield could prevent colds and fight germs. As you may recall, the FTC previously reached a similar settlement with Rite Aid Corp., which will pay $500,000 to settle charges of deceptive advertising involving its Germ Defense medicines.
In August 2008, Airborne Inc. agreed to pull misleading ads as part of an FTC probe. As part of that settlement, Airborne agreed to add up to $6.5 million to a $23.5 million fund created by a separate class action lawsuit filed against Airborne in California. According to CVS, the packaging for Airshield, the store brand equivalent to Airborne, was changed in 2008. CVS has 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 will administer the refund program based on purchase information provided by CVS. The commission warned consumers to be aware of claims made about dietary supplements. David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, had this to say:
With orders against Airborne, Rite Aid, and now CVS, manufacturers and retailers are on notice that they have to tell the truth about what dietary supplements can and cannot do.
There is no telling how much money is paid out annually by the American people for drugs and supplements – with lots of them being virtually worthless and others not as advertised – and that’s a shame.