J&J, CVS and Walgreen Receive FDA Warning Letters on Mouthwash Claims


Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Walgreen Co. (WAG) and CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) all received letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning the companies to remove all claims that mouthwash helps prevent gum disease. The letters continue U.S. regulators' crackdown on alleged false advertising from retailers and consumer-goods makers.

Johnson & Johnson, which makes Listerine mouthwash, and CVS and Walgreen, two of the largest U.S. drugstore chain operators, have been given 15 days to correct what the FDA says are incorrect claims that mouthwash removes plaque or prevents gum disease, the FDA said in a statement today. While mouthwash contains sodium fluoride, which can prevent cavities, it doesn't remove plaque, the FDA said.

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"It is important for the FDA to take appropriate enforcement action when companies make false or unproven product claims to ensure that consumers are not misinformed or misled," said Deborah Autor, director of the office of compliance in FDA's center for drug evaluation and research, in the statement.

Neither Johnson & Johnson, CVS nor Walgreen immediately released statements responding to the FDA letter. Walgreen earlier today said earnings for its most recent quarter beat estimates as same-store sales increased 1.5% from a year earlier.

The letters represent federal regulators' efforts to stop companies from overstating product health benefits. The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint Monday against juice-maker POM Wonderful, alleging that the closely-held company engaged in false advertising related to health benefits of its pomegranate juice. POM rebutted the FTC's allegations in a statement later that day.