Airborne (dietary supplement)


Airborne (dietary supplement)

Airborne is a dietary supplement and health formula which claimed to help ward off harmful bacteria and germs, and help prevent the flu and the common cold.

On March 4, 2008, Airborne Health Inc. agreed to pay $23.3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against the company for falsely claiming that Airborne prevented colds. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/inc_com/inc1204579617407.html?ref=smallbusiness Airborne Settles Lawsuit] , "New York Times, by Alexandra Zendrian, March 7, 2008.] Customers are being refunded for any Airborne they have purchased. [ [http://www.airbornehealthsettlement.com/ Airborne Settlement] ]

The formula of Airborne, created by a school teacher, contains herbal extracts, amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, synthetic vitamins, and other ingredients, and can be purchased in many U.S. retail stores over-the-counter in three different forms: a tablet which can be taken orally or dissolved in water, a chewable "Gummi" lozenge, or a concentrated powder.

Invention and retail success

The formula for Airborne was developed by Victoria Knight-McDowell, an elementary school teacher from Carmel, California. Although the company does not mention the true origins of the herbal component of the product—simply listing the herbs, and claiming that it was "developed by a schoolteacher"—the formula in fact closely mirrors a classical Chinese formula called "yin chiao." In the early 1990s, she began brewing herbal and vitamin cocktails and began selling it in tablet form to local drug stores. Knight-McDowell contracted with cartoonist Lloyd Dangle to create Airborne's brand and packaging. In 1997 specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's ordered 300 cases of Airborne tablets to sell, and by 1999 other larger chains, such as Wal-Mart and Rite Aid, began stocking Airborne.

Testing, research, and controversy

Although the manufacturer recommends that Airborne be taken "at the first sign of a cold symptom, or before entering crowded environments, like airplanes and offices," Airborne has not undergone any testing by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There are few scientific studies supporting Airborne's effectiveness. The study often referenced in favor of Airborne was sponsored by the Knight-McDowell Labs, manufacturers of Airborne.ref|tcnj "GNG Pharmaceutical Services Inc.", claims to have conducted this study with 120 people, and reported that 47% of Airborne recipients showed little or no cold or flu symptoms, whereas only 23% of the recipients of a placebo pill showed equal results.ref|A However, in February of 2006, ABC News discovered that GNG Pharmaceutical Services has no official clinic, scientists, or even doctors. In fact the company comprises only two men, who started the company just to perform this study. Because of the bad publicity that this controversy has brought forth, Knight-McDowell Labs has removed all references to the study from their packaging and web site.ref|controversy

A medical report on drugs and therapeutics regarding Airborne, along with its emphasis that the evidence of cold prevention or treatment of the formula is inconclusive, gives reason to believe that the supplement is unsafe as directed, specifically regarding its excess of vitamin C:

There are some concerns. First, there is no conclusive evidence that this product or any of its ingredients prevents colds or shortens their duration. Second, the adult tablet contains 1 g of vitamin C, and the directions for use advise taking 1 tablet at the first sign of a cold and repeating the dose every 3 hours as necessary. Vitamin C in doses higher than 1 g increases oxalate and urate excretion and may cause kidney stones (EN Taylor et al, J Am Soc Nephrol 2004; 15:3225). Third, the safety of this herbal extraction combination has not been established. And with herbs and dietary supplements in general, we only have the manufacturers’ word on the label for what’s in them.ref|C

Although it has been determined that extreme amounts of vitamin C can lead to death [] , in recent publications the link between excess doses of vitamin C and kidney stones has been disputed along with severe constipation and blood in stool.ref|Dref|E Vitamin C exhibits remarkably low toxicity. The LD50 (the dose that will kill 50% of a population) in rats is generally accepted to be 11.9 grams per kilogram when taken orally. ref|J

Pregnant women are advised to exercise caution regarding Airborne consumption. Excess preformed vitamin A during early pregnancy has been associated with a significant increase in life-threatening birth defects. Vitamin A is indeed necessary for fetal development, but most women already carry stores of it in their fat cells. Researchers recommend that pregnant women either restrict their supplemental consumption of vitamin A to 4,000 - 8,000 IUs daily, or they should instead consume beta carotene.ref|pregnancy

It should be noted that according to federal laws, dietary supplements such as Airborne are not tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The regulations of supplements in the U.S. are very lax, so many ineffective or even unsafe supplements are able to be sold on market until there are proven harm.

Class action lawsuits and settlements

A class action lawsuit was filed that alleges that Airborne Health, Inc. (and other defendants) (“Airborne”) falsely advertised certain therapeutic properties, including the ability to cure or prevent the common cold, when marketing products under the Airborne brand name. Defendants denied any wrongdoing or illegal conduct but have agreed to settle the litigation. [cite web | title= Airborne Settlement|url=http://www.airbornehealthsettlement.com/|accessdate=2008-03-06]

On March 4, 2008, Airborne Health Inc. agreed to pay $23.3 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against the company for false advertising. [cite news | title = Airborne settles lawsuit for $23.3 million | publisher = CNN | date = 2008-03-04 | url = http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/04/news/companies/airborne_settlement/?postversion=2008030413 | accessdate = 2008-03-04] Customers with proof of purchase will be refunded for any Airborne they have ever bought. Those without proof of purchases will be reimbursed for up to six packages. Any claims must have been postmarked or received prior to September 15, 2008 in order to be considered "timely". [cite web | title = DAVID WILSON VS. AIRBORNE HEALTH, INC., ET AL. | url=http://www.airbornehealthsettlement.com/docs/claim%20form.pdf | accessdate = 2008-03-06 |format=PDF]

On August 14, 2008, a press release from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated that Airborne Health, Inc. has agreed to pay up to $30 million to settle FTC charges. According to the FTC’s complaint:

: there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims made by the defendants that Airborne tablets can prevent or reduce the risk of colds, sickness, or infection; protect against or help fight germs; reduce the severity or duration of a cold; and protect against colds, sickness, or infection in crowded places such as airplanes, offices, or schools.

The FTC complaint also states that the company's founders, Victoria Knight-McDowell and Thomas John McDowell "made false claims that Airborne products are clinically proven to treat colds." [http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/08/airborne.shtm Makers of Airborne Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising; Agreement Brings Total Settlement Funds to $30 Million] For release August 14, 2008]

References

# cite web
title = LA Daily News
work = Out with the cold, Teacher serves up possible remedy
url = http://www.airbornehealth.com/la_news/
accessdate = October 31
accessyear = 2005
author = Rachel Konrad (Associated Press)

# cite web
title = Unbound 2005: Going Airborne
accessdate = January 23
accessyear = 2006
url = http://www.tcnj.edu/~unbound/spring2005/articles/h1
publisher = The College of New Jersey
author = Ben Leach

# cite web
title = The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, Issue 1199
work=On the effects of Airborne
publisher = The Medical Letter
url=http://medicalletter.org/restricted/w1199.pdf
accessdate= January 23
accessyear= 2006
format=PDF

#cite web
url = http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Health/story?id=1664514&page=1&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312
accessdate = April 4
accessyear = 2006
title = Does Airborne Really Stave off Colds?

#cite web
url = http://www.orthomed.com/titrate.htm
accessdate = January 28
accessyear = 2007
title = Vitamin C, Titrating to Tolerance
author = Robert F. Cathcart, M.D.

#cite web
url = http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w99/kidneystones.html
accessdate = September 21
accessyear = 2006
title = What About Vitamin C and Kidney Stones?
author = Stephen Lawson
publisher = The Linus Pauling Institute

#cite web
url = http://www.time-to-run.com/nutrition/vitc.htm
accessdate = September 21
accessyear = 2006
title = Vitamin C and its suspected harmfulness explained

#cite web
url = http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamina.asp#h7
accessdate = October 3
accessyear = 2006
title = What are the health risks of too much vitamin A?
publisher = Office of Dietary Supplements

#cite web
url = http://www.airbornehealth.com/cnav_faqs.php#howtouse01
accessdate = January 9
accessyear = 2007
title = Airborne Health FAQs?
publisher = Airborne's website

#cite web
url = http://www.thenutritionreporter.com/A-vitamins.html
accessdate = January 28
accessyear = 2007
title = Caution Urged With Vitamin A in Pregnancy But Beta-Carotene is Safe
author = Jack Challem
publisher = The Nutrition Reporter

#cite web
url = http://physchem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/AS/ascorbic_acid.html
accessdate = February 21
accessyear = 2007
title = Safety (MSDS) data for ascorbic acid.
publisher = Oxford University

External links

* [http://www.airbornehealth.com/ AirborneHealth.com] Official site of Knight-McDowell Labs.
* [http://www.komo1000news.com/consumertip/story.asp?ID=39948 komo1000news.com] News on Airborne dated October 27, 2005.
* [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=9389C0F4-E7F2-99DF-3BE657CAD1649375 Airborne Baloney, Scientific American, January 2007.]


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