Pfizer Removes Health Claims from Centrum Multivitamin

July 13, 2012 — Bowing to pressure from a consumer watchdog group, Pfizer has agreed to remove and modify health claims on its popular line of Centrum multivitamins. Claims that the vitamins can promote “breast health” and “colon health” will be removed from the product website in 30 days, and from the product labels in six months.

 

In April, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sent a letter to Pfizer chief executive Ian Read. The CSPI threatened to file a lawsuit unless Pfizer stopped claiming that Centrum could prevent diseases. The CSPI stated, “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.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dietary supplement manufacturers are not allowed to advertise their product as a way to treat, prevent, or cure a specific medical condition. The law is widely flaunted and sporadically enforced. It becomes a problem when people are misled into choosing ineffective, unproven supplements to treat their medical conditions instead of medications with proven benefits.

The CSPI claimed that the Centrum label contained “deceptive claims.” Centrum is promoted as a way to improve energy and immunity, and promote healthy bones, eyes, heart, breast, and colon.

In response, Pfizer has agreed to make several changes to the label on Centrum:

  • They will remove “breast health” and “colon health,” although the company says these claims are justified because Centrum contains Vitamin D. The scientific evidence supporting this claim is inconclusive.
  • Pfizer will also change the energy-boosting claims to instead say that Centrum can support metabolic function
  • Finally, the “heart health” claims will be changed to warn that Centrum is “not a replacement for cholesterol-lowering drugs.” The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor (the best-selling drug of all time) is manufactured by Pfizer and supplied the bulk of the company’s revenue until the patent expired in 2012.

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