CSPI had brought a class action lawsuit against CVS in 2016. The lawsuit alleged that the memory support claims CVS was making on the product were unsubstantiated and relied on a study that had been specifically disallowed by federal regulators.
According to CSPI’s lawsuit, CVS continued to sell the supplements with memory claims even after the Federal Trade Commission had ruled in 2014 that the study that CVS had been relying on could not be used to support the kind of memory claims it had been making. The study was done by DSM (under the aegis of Martek Biosciences, which DSM acquired in 2011) on its algal DHA ingredient. The FTC case that involved DSM’s i-Health business unit was a landmark in memory claims substantiation.
Memory claims must be carefully worded
An expert contacted by NutraIngredients-USA said that memory support claims are still possible, but that the claims must be matched precisely with the results of the substantiating research. The FTC-DSM case showed that the agency is looking at memory as being broken down into several distinct areas, and a blanket memory support claim won’t fly any more if the research applies to only one of those areas.
In the case of the Algal-900 supplements being sold at CVS, CSPI cited a 2014 meta analysis that found that DHA did not perform better than placebo in supporting memory.
According to the terms of the settlement which was approved by a federal judge on Thursday, consumers who bought the Algal-900 supplements between November 15, 2008, and September 30, 2016, can receive refunds if they have proof of purchase. Consumers who lack a receipt but purchased the products under CVS’s customer rewards program can receive store credit.
“We hope the resolution of this litigation sends a clear signal to the rest of the supplement industry, where too many companies are making promises they can’t deliver,” said CSPI associate litigation director Matthew Simon.
CVS Health, parent company of the CVS pharmacy chain, did not respond to a request for comment.