Class action against Walgreen’s says herbal supplements bogus

A class-action suit against the Walgreen’s Drug Store chain, claims the stores sell herbal supplements that actually contain such substances as rice, tropical houseplant and material originating in the daisy family. The suit claims the New York attorney general issued cease and desist letters to the chain on Feb. 2. The letter said the six Walgreen’s “Finest Nutrition” brands were tested, but all but one, Saw Palmetto, were unrecognizable or a substance other than what they claim to be. According to the test results obtained by the New York Attorney General’s Office, only 18 percent of the tests yield DNA matching the product label; 45 percent tested for botanical material other than what was on the label, and 37 percent yielded no plant DNA at all. The suit was filed by Kevin Green and Thomas P. Rosenfeld of the Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland law firm.

The named plaintiff is Donald Weeks, who bought supplements at the Edwardsville store. A judge must certify the case before it can proceed as a class action. The class would be all Illinois consumers who purchased the Finest Nutrition products within the last three years.

The suit claims that the Walgreen’s Gingko Biloba does not contain Gingko Biloba, but Oryza, commonly known as rice.

The suit also claims that St. John’s Wort contains garlic, rice, and a tropical houseplant, that ginseng contains garlic and rice; garlic does not primarily contain garlic but primarily palm, wheat, and rice, and echinacea contain rice and material originating in the daisy family.

The suit claims that dietary supplements are becoming increasingly popular, and the global market is estimated to be $100 billion. They are advertised as having therapeutic properties. For instance, echinacea is supposed to prevent colds, while Gingko Biloba is taken to improve memory.

The suit claims the firm violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Act, which covers alleged false claims about products. The suit is also asking for an injunction to prevent continued sale of the products, as well as damages, including punitive damages.

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four major retailers Œ of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves. The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers “î GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart “î and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.