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FDA Warns Purell: Stop Claiming Hand Sanitizer Prevents Flu

Agency says the claims are unproven.


It stands to reason that global disease outbreaks would have a measurable impact on the sales of cleaning and sanitation products, and a few years back, a study by IRI suggested that the 2014 Ebola outbreak sent hand sanitizer product sales up 56 percent year-over-year.

But for Gojo Industries, the parent company behind Purell hand sanitizer, a ramp-up in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus may be accompanied by a change in its marketing message. That’s because the FDA has sent a warning letter to the company over claims that Purell helps to eliminate Ebola, MRSA or even the flu.

But the reason for the letter, says CNN Business, is more about compliance than effectiveness. The FDA actually doesn’t allow over-the-counter topic antiseptics to make claims about effectiveness against certain viruses and, in this case, the agency says the claims are unproven.

Further complicating the issue, the FDA says Purell’s marketing claims are positioning the products as if they were pharmaceutical drugs, which makes for a slippery slope forward. CNN Business says Gojo may have two choices: to try to get the products reclassified as drugs or stop making their marketing claims altogether. Until then, the products will be viewed as unapproved drugs.

And while Gojo works to get its house in order, don’t fret so much about yours: the CDC actually recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer for flu prevention, a note that the FDA acknowledged in its recent attempt to stop Gojo from claiming that alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be used for flu prevention.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say… huh?

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