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SANDOZ WILL CEASE TRIAMINIC "NEW" AND "IMPROVED" CLAIMS

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

SANDOZ WILL CEASE TRIAMINIC "NEW" AND "IMPROVED" CLAIMS following a settlement with 34 state attorneys general announced on July 1. In addition, Sandoz has agreed to pay $ 800,000 to the investigating states to cover the costs of the investigation. "Sandoz halved the quantity of the active ingredients in the old Triaminic and began marketing the new, diluted formula as 'NEW, IMPROVED Triaminic' in October 1992," a July 1 press release from New York Attorney General Robert Abrams states. The AG said that Sandoz' "misleading ad campaign heralded this change as an improvement and failed to conspicuously disclose that the dosage had changed." As a result, Abrams said, "many longtime users of the product underdose themselves and their children." Sandoz, beginning July 3, may "no longer market Triaminic or any other liquid cold medicine as 'new and improved' unless it can demonstrate with scientific evidence that the formula is more effective medically" under the settlement, the New York AG reported. Moreover, Sandoz has agreed to "clearly disclose any dosage change" and to "not characterize increased dosage as easy or more convenient to administer," Abrams noted. Sandoz must also conspicuously include the statement: "IMPORTANT: Read New Chart for Correct Dosage," on its packaging, bottles, store displays and all of its print advertising for the Triaminic line. According to the settlement terms, Sandoz also agreed to include a patient insert in packaging informing consumers "about the different dosages for new and old Triaminic." In addition, Sandoz said it will provide stickers to suppliers with the agreed upon dosing information for products that have already been shipped. Other conditions of the settlement include coupons for a free bottle of the product or a refund to any consumer who complains about Triaminic. Consumers can complain by calling a toll-free number or by writing to Sandoz. Sandoz' new formula was introduced as "#1 Pediatrician Recommended" even though "it had not been on the market long enough to substantiate the claims with surveys," the press release states. Sandoz agreed to modify the claim; however, the specific details of the change were left to Sandoz under what a spokesperson for the New York AG's office called a "good faith" agreement. The investigation was spawned by consumer complaints about the reformulated product following its introduction last fall, the spokesperson for the New York AG said. The package sizes were identical to the old product but the dosage directions were "inconspicuously" changed from one teaspoon to two, the New York AG's office noted. In addition, New York AG spokesperson said the reformulation resulted in a 100% price increase. Attorneys general from New York and 10 other states initiated the investigation that began earlier this year and will divide the $ 800,000 among them, including: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and the district attorney from Yolo County, Calif. The 11 AG offices comprise the National Association of Attorneys General. The Sandoz investigation was conducted under the auspices of the NAAG Consumer Product Committee's "package shorting" subcommittee. Twenty-three other states signed on to the investigation but will not benefit monetarily from the settlement. The agreement applies to Sandoz' Triaminic Syrup, Triaminic Expectorant, Triaminic DM, Dorcol Children's Cough Syrup, Dorcol Liquid Cough Formula, Dorcol Liquid Cough Formula, Dorcol Children's Decongestant Liquid "and any of [the company's] other over-the-counter liquid cough or cold medications," the press release states. In a statement released July 1, Sandoz said it feels "strongly that the position taken by the attorneys general is unwarranted . . . While we are confident that we did not do anything wrong in our reformulation of Triaminic either from the legal, ethical or public welfare viewpoint, we resolved this matter amicably to avoid protracted and nonproductive litigation." Sandoz said it changed the Triaminic formula because the "only formulation that children preferred required a reduction in the concentration of the active ingredient." Sandoz reported that at "this lower concentration, the flavor was improved, and our research clearly indicated that children will more willingly take Triaminic." Sandoz is introducing a new Triaminic line extension this fall without the "#1 Pediatrician Recommended" claim. Instead, Triaminic Sore Throat Formula carries the statement "Pediatrician Recommended Brand." In January, Sandoz agreed to modify Triaminic promotional claims following a ruling by the National Advertising Review Board, including the claim: "Pediatrician Recommended #1." The board found that such claims should be discontinued until more precise claims are developed ("The Tan Sheet" March 15, p. 7). The new sore throat syrup, in grape flavor, will be available in four-ounce bottles. The new sore throat product also directs children aged 6-12 years old to take two teaspoons every hour. Pending in the New York State legislature is a bill that would require manufacturers to conspicuously alert consumers when the contents of a previously marketed package have been reduced. The bill (A 6094/S 1998), sponsored by Aurelia Greene in the state assembly and by Joseph Holland in the senate, has cleared the assembly and is now awaiting action in the senate. The bill came close to passing in 1991 when it was first introduced and again in 1992, according to a spokesperson for Abrams. A vote is possible this summer although the bill is still being debated in the Senate Consumer Committee and has not been reported out.
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