Congested Consumer Alleges Chain-Store Allergy Meds Don’t Work

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Family Dollar, Walgreens, DG And Walmart Allegedly Sell Cold, Flu And Allergy Medications That Contain An Ineffective Decongestant.

Spring is upon us and the flowers are in bloom. But for many millions of Americans, that means bad news: Allergy season.

When eyes start to itch and sinuses begin to get blocked, many consumers will rush to their local pharmacy or dollar store to get some relief. But a new proposed class action lawsuit alleges they’re being tricked out of their hard-earned money in some cases, by companies selling products containing a “decongestant” that doesn’t actually work.

West Virginia plaintiff Bethany Childers filed the lawsuit against Family Dollar, Walgreens, DG and Walmart on March 23 in a West Virginia court, alleging violations of state and federal consumer laws.

According to the lawsuit, each of the chain stores falsely claim some of their allergy, cold and flu products have decongestant properties.

Questioning the effectiveness of store-brand allergy remedies

Childers says each of the chain stores sell allergy, cold and flu products that contain the ingredient phenylephrine, which they claim is an active decongestant. 

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year concluded that phenylephrine is “wholly ineffective” as a decongestant when taken orally, Childers says.

“In September 2023, the FDA voted 16-0 finding that scientific data does not support that ‘the recommended dosage of orally administered phenylephrine is effective as a nasal decongestant,’” she states.

Despite this, there are still at least 250 allergy, cold, and flu products on the chain stores’ shelves, marketed under the chains stores’ brands, the lawsuit says. These include products like Family Wellness Daytime Cold & Flu relief and Walgreens Severe Cold and Flu.

Dispute over decongestant ingredient in popular medications

Despite knowing that oral use of phenylephrine is ineffective, the companies continued to make and market the products containing phenylephrine, the lawsuit says. For example Family Dollar still sells a Family Wellness Daytime Cold & Flu relief product that says it contains a “nasal decongestant:”  

Childers says hundreds of millions of Americans have bought these products to treat certain symptoms which the companies knew phenylephrine was ineffective to treat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s 2023 National Health Interview Survey, over one-quarter of US adults (25.7%) and nearly one in five US children (18.9%) suffer from seasonal allergies.

“Defendants knew or should have known that the representations they made to consumers about the effectiveness of oral phenylephrine were false and misleading,” the lawsuit says.

Legal challenge to companies' claims about phenylephrine products

Had they known the truth about the products containing phenylephrine, the congested customers wouldn’t have bought them, or would have paid a lot less for them, the lawsuit says.

Childers is looking to represent anyone in the United States who bought phenylephrine products made by Family Dollar, Walgreens, Walmart or DG.

She is suing for fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of warranty and violations of state consumer laws. Childers is seeking certification of the class action, damages of more than $5 million for the class participants, fees, costs and a jury trial.

The plaintiff and proposed class is represented by The Webb Law Centre PLLC and Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles P.C. 

The store-brand allergy medication class action lawsuit is Childers et al. v. Family Dollar LLC et al., Case No. 2:24-cv-00148 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. 

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