Cold Remedy Airborne Settles Lawsuit
Maker of Airborne Will Pay Refunds for Product That Was Marketed as a Cold Preventive
March 4, 2008 -- If you bought Airborne, the popular herbal and vitamin
formula originally touted as a cold preventive, you're due for a refund.
The makers of Airborne have agreed to refund money to consumers as part of a
$23.3 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit for false advertising. It
does not admit wrongdoing or illegal conduct.
Products included are the Airborne Effervescent Health Formula, Airborne
On-the-Go, Airborne Power Pixies, Airborne Nighttime, Airborne Jr., Airborne
Gummi, and Airborne Seasonal (formerly sold as Airborne Seasonal Relief).
Airborne: The Road to the Lawsuit
Initially, Airborne ads touted its line of products as a way to prevent and
treat colds; Airborne later toned down those claims and now calls the formulas
In February 2006, a report on national television questioned the validity of
a clinical trial touted by Airborne as a study that offered proof that its
products work. Soon after, the false advertising lawsuit was filed in 2006 by
California law firms representing a consumer who protested that the formula did
not work as advertised.
"One of their more outrageous claims is that you take it before entering
a germy environment and you're instantly protected," David Schardt, senior
nutritionist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tells
The CSPI, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group, joined the lawsuit in late
2006 when asked to do so by the California law firms representing the
plaintiff. "It's just a mixture of vitamins, herbs, and minerals,"
Schardt says. "There is nothing particularly special about this
mixture." The company is also under scrutiny by about 24 state
attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to The
CSPI, although the FTC won't confirm an investigation.
A spokesperson for Airborne, who declined to be quoted by name, says,
"Airborne is an immune booster. We are pleased to have reached this
settlement." The company refers the media and consumers to the settlement
web site, airbornehealthsettlement.com, for more information.
Airborne products were created by Victoria Knight McDowell, a former
second-grade teacher whose motivation to find the formula was triggered by her
exposure to germy students, according to the company web site.
The product line includes several formulas, but the basic formula includes
vitamins A, C, and E and magnesium, zinc, selenium, herbs, and other
ingredients. It is called Airborne because it is meant to combat airborne
viruses and germs, according to the company web site.
Watchdog Group Investigates
In 2007, the CSPI, which regularly looks at dietary
supplements to determine their effects, evaluated Airborne as part of an
investigation on cold remedies "and found
little or no evidence that the product works," Schardt tells WebMD.
According to Schardt, there is ''no credible evidence" that the Airborne
formula can prevent colds or protect people from germy environments.