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A Third Class Action Filed Against Purell for False Claims About Its Effectiveness

Purell hand sanitizer inside the Information Center on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology on March 12, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Students have been asked to move out of their dorms by March 17 due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). risk. All classes will be moved online for the rest of the spring semester. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on March 27, 2020 | Last updated on August 10, 2021

Yet another class action has been filed against Gojo, the maker of Purell hand sanitizer, for false advertising. According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on March 24, Purell markets its hand sanitizers as an effective means of combating viral and bacterial diseases. However, its products have not been shown to be effective in clinical, controlled studies. The diseases Purell purports to combat include colds, influenza, and norovirus. Purell has never made a claim about the coronavirus family on its packaging, which includes the novel coronavirus currently causing COVID-19, but does say it kills "99.9 percent of illness-causing germs."

Two other class actions have already been filed earlier this year, both in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

FDA Sent Gojo Warning Letter in January

The class actions come on the heels of a Food and Drug Administration letter sent to Gojo in January. In the letter, the FDA warned Gojo that their specific claims regarding PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer “are unapproved new drugs in violation of section 505(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act." The FDA noted it “is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus."

COVID-19 Concerns

The complaint mentions that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Purell hand sanitizers are in high demand. Further, the complaint argues, consumers have paid a premium for this product, which they would not have done had they known the effectiveness of the product. Nor would consumers forego other, more effective methods of reducing germs on their hands, like hand washing, if they had been aware of Purell's effectiveness.

The complaint alleges violations of New York consumer protection laws.

What Does the CDC Say About Hand Sanitizers?

The CDC has issued a guide for properly using hand sanitizer. Ultimately, the CDC says hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can help reduce the spread of germs when hand washing is unavailable. But hand sanitizers must be used properly and not in lieu of other precautions. The CDC considers washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds under warm water to be more effective in removing germs from your hands.

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