The popular herbal cold remedy Cold-FX is no better than a placebo a treating colds, and the manufacturer has known that for more than a decade, alleges a lawsuit before the B.C. Supreme Court.
Lawyer John Green filed the suit against Cold-FX maker Valeant in B.C. in 2012, as well as another in Saskatchewan, where provincial statutes would allow the lawsuit to become a nationwide class-action.
“A big pharmaceutical company sells a product that claims it does something when it doesn’t. That’s what this case is about,” Green alleged in an interview with Global News.
“The research just doesn’t support what they say the product does.”
Green has presented documents he says show Afexa Life Sciences, the company that sold Cold-FX to Valeant in 2011, knew as far back as 2004 that Cold-FX was no better than a placebo.
Dr. Gerry Predy, now a senior officer of health for the Alberta government, carried out a study of Cold-FX in 2004. The part of the study that indicated whether or not the drug works for short-term cold relief was never released, the National Post reports.
Hockey broadcasting legend Don Cherry is among the recognizable names who have promoted Cold-FX. This screencap was taken from the Cold-FX site Feb. 1, 2016.
Drugmakers are not required to release study results like these under Canadian law.
“If it had been disclosed, it would probably have been the end of Afexa Life Sciences,” Green told the National Post.
Health Canada has approved Cold-FX to make a number of claims, including that it “helps reduce the frequency, severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms by boosting the immune system.”
The agency lists Panax quinquefolius, or American ginseng, as Cold-FX’s only medicinal ingredient.
Green said he’d like to see an eventual class-action lawsuit cover every box of Cold-FX ever sold, potentially meaning anyone in Canada who can prove having purchased it could have money owed them, if the lawsuit is successful.
But in an interview with the Globe and Mail last November, Valeant’s VP of medical and regulatory affairs said the drug has to be used “chronically” for a minimum of eight weeks.
“We cannot argue that Cold-FX can be used to treat symptoms that are already there,” said Maxime Barakat. “We recommend a chronic usage.”
Cold-FX’s packaging makes no mention of how long the drug has to be taken to be effective, the Globe noted.