As It Happens

Lawyer says Cold-FX sat on study that showed it's no better than a placebo

A 2004 study shows Cold-FX isn't much more effective than a placebo. The company never published that study. UBC professor James McCormack says the ineffectiveness of Cold-FX isn't news.
A previously unpublished study suggests Cold-FX is no more effective than a placebo, when it comes to treating a cold. (CBC)

Cold-FX is no more effective at treating colds than a placebo, according to an unpublished study. It's alleged the makers of Cold-FX chose not to release the findings, when they became known to the company in 2004.

"If you did a study and it showed the thing you were selling didn't work, you wouldn't be hell bent on …  letting everyone know how ineffective your medication is," says James McCormack, a professor at the University of British Columbia's school of pharmacy.

The study surfaced because of a class action lawsuit about alleged deceptive marketing, launched against Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the company that now owns Cold-FX.

"Anybody who looks at the evidence with even a reasonable approach will come to the same conclusion, that it does virtually nothing," says McCormack.

This is not the first time Cold-FX effectiveness has been scrutinized. In November 2015, health experts questioned Cold-FX's claim that the flu shot worked better when also taking it's herbal remedy.

In 2012, CBC TV's Marketplace commissioned an analysis of four studies on the efficiency of Cold-FX and found that relative to a placebo, Cold-FX reduced the chance of getting a cold by 6%. 

McCormack says that marketing may be stronger than science when it comes to people's belief in the product,
"That [study] does not stop it from being sold and that doesn't stop people from believing that it works." 


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