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Yes, Another Wrist-Slap PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Back in March, I called attention to the farce known as “Airborne” – as well as the look-alike product that Walgreen Pharmacies offer the naïve, a deliberate ripoff to take advantage of Airborne’s heavy popularity and to get some share of that loot that might otherwise escape them. The Airborne manufacturer misrepresented its product as a cold remedy without – of course – offering any scientific evidence to back up that claim, and also implied that the product was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. Now, Airborne will pay $23,300,000 to settle allegations by state attorneys general that it made false claims about its product. As a part of the settlement, they had to agree to discontinue their ads about the effects, health benefits, and safety of Airborne.

Now, this multi-million-dollar settlement is the largest payment to date in any multistate action involving any “dietary supplement” product, and that may sound like a healthy knuckle-rap to the Airborne company, but consider these two facts: first, Airborne can easily change their packaging and advertising copy to accommodate the new limitations, and can continue selling the silly product as before by coasting on the already-heavy demand they’ve created by their fake claims. Second, what tiny fraction of their profits from sales over the past fifteen years is the “settlement” they will pay? This is hardly a knuckle-rap; it’s more like a pat on the shoulder: “Just change your ads and then continue on, guys, and good luck!”

To add a tad more salt to this wound, Airborne was allowed to settle the case without admitting to any wrongdoing or illegal conduct. Sure.

Our system just doesn’t work, folks. I say again: To get rich: originate a useless product, do heavy – but false – advertising, sell lots of it, and wait until the responsible government agency catches you at it. Then pay the fine, and retire, having tucked away the profits for the years that the agency took to get around to your case – if they ever do. The agencies are understaffed and overworked, so you’re quite safe…

And gee, I have to wonder if Walgreen’s will continue on selling their fake product, too. Or will the FDA send them a note…?

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written by Son of Rea, December 20, 2008
I see a new product that JREF can market. A 30 day supply of pills that guarantees enlightenment. The pills would be nothing more than your typical placebo, but after all the pills are gone, there would be a message of enlightenment revealed in the bottom of the bottle.

Such enlightening messages could be: "There is no God", "Alternative medicines don't work", "Psychics are a scam", "You've just been duped", etc.



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written by Willy K, December 20, 2008
The message at the bottom of the empty JREF MIRACLE CURE bottle should be...

"THANKS FOR MAKING ME RICH! RANDI... smilies/grin.gif
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written by Trish, December 20, 2008
Too bad the state attorney general can't also punish the makers of Airborne for making some of the most obnoxious ads ever aired on TV - the tsk tsk "teacher" commercials.
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written by skepticnj, December 20, 2008
Perhaps the time is upon us to start undoing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Obama has much on his plate now, but if not this administration, when???
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Why does the FDA not require proof of efficacy for OTC drug-like products?
written by joshnankivel, December 20, 2008
The FDA should require clinical trials for efficacy and safety just as they do for drugs that actually work. If double-blinded and otherwise well-performed trials can determine no benefit, these products should be labeled very clearly to make consumers aware that they provide no benefit (kind of like the Surgeon General's warnings on alcohol and cigarettes) OR they shouldn't be sold at all.

Josh Nankivel
http://everydayskeptics.com
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written by BillyJoe, December 20, 2008
Josh,

You hit the nail on the head!

Without proof of benefit from properly controlled clinical trials, these products should not even be allowed on the market in the first place.

BJ
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written by spotthelooney, December 21, 2008
When Airborne first came out, I thought it was something that purified the air around you and killed airborne germs. I didn't know till later that you actually had to ingest the stuff.

And its main selling point? "It was invented by a school teacher!" Does this teacher have an MD or PhD? It's like peddling a cancer cure and claiming "It's invented by an auto mechanic!"
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How about Cold-EEZE?
written by Fission, December 21, 2008
Aside from the ridiculous spelling, this seems to have some decent research behind it. See

http://www.coldeeze.com/cold-eeze_clinical_studies/

Anyone else know much about this?
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written by BillyJoe, December 21, 2008
Fission,

There is not enough evidence that it works. For a start, it is impossible to have a blind study, because the lozenges have a very distinctive taste, so there is always going to be bias in these studies

BJ
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Spreading the word can be more detrimental than a fine.
written by fatewilleatyou, December 21, 2008
The fact that the fine was levied should be seen as a treat to all the skeptics in the Blogosphere.
Repost this article on your websites, blogs, and social networking pages. Those who write for newspapers or produce TV news and news magazines will get wind of it. It can quickly become fodder for the inevitable cold/flu season stories on slow newsdays. Despite the lack of complete satisfaction, we should use these positive developments to empower the community.
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