July 6, 2012
Pfizer Agrees To Change Centrum Vitamin Health Claims
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The act of reading labels has become quite necessary with new foods and products coming on the market. One watchdog group in particular demanded that Pfizer Inc. take down certain health claims and change up language for other claims. Recently, the company agreed to remove “breast health” and “colon health” claims from the labels of the Centrum multivitamin supplements that appear misleading and deceptive.
The Centrum franchise was first acquired by Pfizer three years ago through the purchase of U.S. pharmaceutical company Wyeth. Pfizer´s actions to take down the claims regarding breast and colon health, as well as change language regarding heart health and energy, followed complaints from nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI had argued that the accuracy of the health claims be looked at more closely. The group also threatened to sue Pfizer if no action was taken on the information listed on the labels. Organizations like CSPI have alleged that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn´t done enough to provide consumers with clear information regarding products on the market.
"Those claims of breast and colon health implied that the supplements would prevent breast and colon cancer - disease prevention claims that supplement manufacturers can't legally make," the CSPI commented in a prepared statement.
CSPI believes that Pfizer based the breast and colon claims on the use of Vitamin D in the product; however, the group notes that vitamin D´s ability against breast and colon cancer hasn´t been proven completely.
"For many consumers, a daily multivitamin is an inexpensive insurance policy to make sure that one's getting the recommended daily amounts of important vitamins and minerals," Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the center, stated in a UPI article. "On labels and advertising for Centrum products that bear a claim for 'heart health,' Pfizer Consumer Healthcare would add clarifying language that the products are 'not a replacement for cholesterol-lowering drugs.'"
CSPI also notes that other Centrum products claim to help in promoting bone health and eye health, but these claims may not be necessarily true as well.
"A settlement is, by its nature, something where neither side gets all it wants," Gardner told Reuters. "Once Pfizer agreed to drop the breast and colon cancer claims, we felt that that was too important to let things fall apart over eye and bone health."
According to Ad Week, Pfizer stated that it disagreed with the allegations, but agreed to drop the claims from the labels of the supplements by January 5, 2013 as well as remove the claims from websites and marketing within 30 days.
"The company disagrees with CSPI's concerns, but has agreed to make these changes in order to fully resolve the issues raised by the organization," Pfizer wrote in a statement to Reuters.
The Centrum products will undergo specific language changes. For example, the products that promise “heart health” will be updated to state that they are “not a replacement for cholesterol-lowering drugs.” The products that claim “energy,” will be changed to describe how the products do not give a direct energy boost but rather aid in metabolic function.
"Companies are increasingly using code speak for not making a disease-prevention claim that consumers read as disease preventing," concluded Gardner in the Ad Week article. "I'm real happy with this agreement. This is a much better result than suing them.”