As if the frayed nerves of Americans beset with fears over the coronavirus needed further tension, the value of one of the most popular lines of defense against the virus is being called into question.
The March 13 suit, which was filed in federal court for the Northeastern District of Ohio, charged that Purell’s claims, “by their specific nature and invocation of particular statistics (i.e., 99.99% and 2X), imply and create the impression that the claims have a reliable scientific basis. To the contrary, these claims lack a scientific basis, rendering the affirmative misrepresentations misleading.”
“[T]here is no sound scientific evidence to support the statistics or other claims. Therefore, the labeling and marketing of the products is misleading because they imply sound scientific support when none exists,” the lawsuit said.
The company profited from its deception, the lawsuit charges, impacting not only the four plaintiffs suing, but everyone who has been allegedly defrauded.
“Defendant’s conduct violated the consumer protection and warranty laws of various states and resulted in Defendant’s unjust enrichment,” the lawsuit states.
“By misleadingly suggesting the Products were clinically proven to be effective in preventing diseases and illnesses, without any legitimate scientific testing to support those representations, Defendant has misled Plaintiffs and Class members, who have not received the product promised, i.e., a product proven to kill 99.99% of germs that cause illness. If Defendant had not made the false and misleading claims regarding the Products on the labels and in marketing materials, Plaintiffs would not have purchased the Products or would not have paid as much for the Products,” the lawsuit states.
According to NBC, Carey Jaros, president and CEO of GOJO Industries, called the accusations “without merit.”
He said the company stands “100 percent behind the products.”
The letter summarized the claims made in the company’s advertising and said that the “FDA is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus.”
“Your labeling claims that PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are effective in preventing disease or infection from pathogens such as Ebola, MRSA, VRE, norovirus, flu, and Candida auris, and in preventing the spread of infection, go beyond merely describing the general intended use of a topical antiseptic,” the letter said.
“Furthermore, the claims on your product websites suggest that PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizers are effective in reducing illness or disease-related student and teacher absenteeism also go beyond merely describing the general intended use of a topical antiseptic as set forth in the above-referenced relevant rulemakings,” the letter stated.
The letter stated there is no research to substantiate the claims, and that the FDA is unaware of any product that could do everything the company claimed.
“Furthermore, we are not aware of evidence demonstrating that the PURELL® Healthcare Advanced Hand Sanitizer products as formulated and labeled are generally recognized by qualified experts as safe and effective for use under the conditions suggested, recommended, or prescribed in their labeling,” the letter stated.
“The violations cited in this letter are not intended to be an all-inclusive list of deficiencies regarding your products. Please be aware that you are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of these violations and for preventing their recurrence and the occurrence of other violations. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firm complies with all requirements of federal law and FDA regulations. You should take prompt action to correct the violations cited in this letter. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction,” the letter stated.
“The recent outbreak of the fatal Coronavirus has prompted increased demand for the Products. According to some reports, defendant has promoted the Products as a viable means of preventing transmission of Coronavirus. The Products are unable to provide the outcomes promised by defendant, but through their representations, cause consumers to defer or forgo taking other concrete measures at preventing disease and illness, thereby increasing their chances of contracting same,” the February lawsuit alleged.
“Defendant’s branding and marketing of the Products is designed to – and did – deceive, mislead, and defraud consumers. Defendant’s false, deceptive, and misleading marketing of the Products has enabled defendant to sell more of the Products and at higher prices per unit, than it would have in the absence of this misconduct,” the lawsuit stated.
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