Does Airborne Work?
Airborne, that vitamin supplement you’ve been seeing at the supermarket, has become a huge seller worldwide. The company reports sales in excess of $100 million. And you’ve heard lots of people touting its capacity to prevent or cure the common cold. The box makes claims about boosting the immune system, and asks the rhetorical question, “Sick of getting sick?”
It turns out that companies are not permitted by the FDA to make a more substantial curative claim than “boosts the immune system,” like “cures colds,” unless they can provide substantial clinical evidence that such a claim is true. Watchdog groups, skeptics, and serious scientists are highly doubtful about curative claims that have seized the popular consciousness.
As a result, Victoria Knight-McDowell, the school teacher who invented the supplement, is careful how she puts the point: "I would never sit here and tell you that it's a cure for the common cold . . . We don't know if Airborne is a … cure for the common cold. What Airborne does is it helps your body build a healthy immune system. When you have a healthy immune system, then it allows your body, on its own, to fight off germs."
Recently, Airborne lost a $23.3 million class action suit filed by consumers for false advertising. According to CNN, one of the groups in the class action suit, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that the Airborne company will refund money to consumers, pay for ads to rectify the confusion and instruct consumers on how to get their money back. David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center said, "There's no credible evidence that what's in Airborne can prevent colds or protect you from a germy environment . . Airborne is basically on overpriced, run-of-the-mill vitamin pill that's been cleverly, but deceptively, marketed."