Consumer Coalition Sues Schering Over Marketing of Claritin

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against pharmaceutical giant Schering Corp. alleging the company falsely marketed its allergy drug Claritin as effective for all allergy sufferers and that it intentionally overpriced the drug.

The lawsuit, filed in the New Jersey Superior Court by the Prescription Access Litigation project, a coalition of consumer groups, alleges Schering “has engaged in a campaign of misrepresentation that has artificially increased the demand and the price for the drug.” The coalition said that Claritin — the most widely prescribed allergy medication in the United States — is only effective for 50 percent of users. It alleges Schering's direct-to-consumer advertisements falsely depict the benefits of Claritin and that this “unfair advertising” has turned the drug into a best seller.

The lawsuit covers the marketing of the entire family of Claritin products, including Claritin-D 12 hour, Claritin D 24 hour, Claritin Syrup and Claritin RediTabs.

“We believe Schering has deliberately left out any information about the drug's efficacy, instead serving up glowing ads to push this product in America's living rooms,” said Stephen Rosenfeld, a PAL spokesman. “This suit alleges the ads are misleading, incomplete and designed to fool the public into paying top dollar for a drug that often as not, just doesn't work.”

Denise Foy, a spokeswoman for Kenilworth, N.J.-based Schering, said the company had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment on it.

“Schering is committed to full compliance with all regulations for promotional and educational materials as regulated by the FDA [Federal Drug Administration],” Foy said.

PAL is seeking a declaration that the Claritin advertisements breach New Jersey consumer law and that Schering should be prohibited from making false claims about Claritin.

For the first six months of the year, worldwide Claritin sales amounted to $1.6 billion, according to Schering sales figures. In the United States, first half 2001 sales were $1.4 billion alone.

“This is a case about a pharmaceutical company's direct-to-consumer advertising and how that advertising distorted the market,” said Thomas Sobol, the lead attorney for PAL. “Deliberate concealment and false promises are at the heart of New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.”

PAL, which was formed earlier this year by Boston-based advocacy organization Community Catalyst, is a coalition of private lawyers, public health advocates and public interest attorneys that fight on behalf of consumers what it feels are the illegal tactics of drug makers to artificially inflate the costs of their products.

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