Johnson & Johnson falsely claims that its Listerine Total Care Anticavity mouthwash fights dental plaque above the gum line, according to a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco Federal Court. The class action lawsuit comes amidst an FDA crackdown on companies making false marketing claims about the benefits of mouth-rinse products.
Listerine Total Care Anticavity mouthwash is advertised as being able to help consumers “prevent cavities, restore enamel, strengthen teeth, kill bad breath germs, freshen breath” and “fight unsightly plaque above the gum line.” According to the class action lawsuit, however, Listerine’s sole active ingredient — sodium fluoride – “does not effectively fight plaque above the gum line” and is “ineffective for the purposes conveyed to consumers.” The lawsuit further charges that Johnson & Johnson tells consumers that Listerine Total Care is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), when, in fact, the product “does not have FDA approval for all of the purposes for which it is marketed.”
The Listerine Total Care class action lawsuit was filed just days after the FDA warned Johnson & Johnson to stop making unsupported claims that their mouthwash promotes healthy gums and removes plaque, because no such benefit has been proven. The FDA also warned two drugstore giants — CVS and Walgreens — to stop making unsubstantiated claims about their generic-brand mouthwash products: CVS Complete Care Anticavity Mouthwash and Walgreens Mouth Rinse Full Action.
Under U.S. law, companies cannot claim that a product is effective at treating a disease unless the FDA has approved the claim, or the active ingredient has been generally recognized as safe and effective for the claim. All three mouthwashes cited by the FDA contain sodium fluoride as their active ingredient, which prevents cavities but has not been found by the FDA to be effective at preventing gum disease or removing plaque.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of all consumers who purchased Listerine Total Care Anticavity mouthwash within the United States. It also includes a separate class of individuals who purchased the product in California. It is seeking damages and restitution for all class members.
A copy of the Johnson & Johnson Listerine Total Care Class Action Lawsuit can be read here.
UPDATE: This case was transferred on Feb. 24, 2011 to multidistrict litigation where multiple class action lawsuits were consolidated alleging the same claims. On Nov. 11, 2011, the court dismissed all cases in the Listerine Total Care MDL (In re: Listerine Total Care Mouthwash Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation, MDL No. 2210, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida). The dismissal followed an Aug. 2 motion by Johnson subsidiary McNeil-PPC Inc., which said its mouthwash is clinically proven to fight plaque above the gums, therefore, claims that it falsely advertised the mouthwash’s anti-plaque properties are baseless.
A new Listerine Total Care class action lawsuit was filed on May 21, 2014, alleging that it is falsely advertised as being able to restore tooth enamel.
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