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A previously unpublished study suggests Cold-FX is no more effective than a placebo, when it comes to treating a cold.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Cold-FX is no more effective at treating colds than a placebo, according to an unpublished study.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." 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now