Plaintiff: Robitussin Cold + Flu Products Do Not Provide Max OTC Relief

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October 6, 2023

by Brian Eckert

When consumers see cold and flu medications labeled “maximum strength” they may reasonably believe that the ingredients in these products offer the strongest symptom relief allowable over the counter. But this is not the case with Robitussin Cold + Flu products, says the plaintiff in a Milberg class action lawsuit, who accuses Pfizer of knowingly mislabeling them and causing harm to consumers.

The lawsuit is the latest by Milberg attorneys to target non-prescription drugs containing phenylephrine hydrochloride, a nasal decongestant recently declared ineffective by an FDA advisory panel.

Which Robitussin Products are Named in the Lawsuit?

Milberg’s class action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, takes issue with the following Robitussin formulas:

  • Robitussin Adult MAXIMUM STRENGTH – Severe Multi-Symptom Cough Cold +Flu
  • Robitussin Adult MAXIMUM STRENGTH – Severe Multi-Symptom Cough Cold + Flu Nighttime
  • Robitussin Adult MAXIMUM STRENGTH – Severe Multi-Symptom Cough Cold + Flu – Day and Night Value Pack

Each of these products contains the active decongestant ingredient phenylephrine, as well as the pain and fever reliever acetaminophen.

Why Are These Products Allegedly Mislabeled?

The front packaging of these products prominently displays, in capitalized white font set against a red background, the words “MAXIMUM STRENGTH.”

With regards to the ingredients phenylephrine and acetaminophen, the claim that they are “MAXIMUM STRENGTH” suggests they provide the strongest decongestant and body ache/fever relief available without a prescription. This claim is allegedly misleading, however, for the following reasons:

  • Phenylephrine is not as strong as other OTC decongestants. An FDA committee determined that phenylephrine is no more effective as a nasal decongestant than a placebo. In addition, decongestants containing effective active ingredients, including oxymetazoline and pseudoephedrine, are available without a prescription.
  • The 325 mg dosage of acetaminophen in theses products is only equivalent to a “regular strength” dosage and falls well below the 500 mg acetaminophen dosage that is commonly marketed as “extra strength.”

According to Milberg’s lawsuit, the availability of other, stronger nasal decongestants and higher acetaminophen doses makes the “MAXIMUM STRENGTH” labeling on these products false, misleading, and deceptive.

Ordinary consumers lack the scientific knowledge to determine the true quality or strength of Robitussin Cold + Flu and rely on Pfizer to be transparent in their product claims, the lawsuit also argues.

Who Can Participate in This Lawsuit?

The lead plaintiff in the case is a resident of Illinois. She purchased Robitussin Severe Multi-Symptom Cough, Cold + Flu on multiple occasions from different retailers, taking the “MAXIMUM STRENGTH” label at face value and relying on it to inform her purchase decision. She says that she would not have purchased the product—or would have paid less for it—had she known that Pfizer misrepresented it.

Had consumers, such as Plaintiff, known the Robitussin PE Products were not “MAXIMUM STRENGTH” relief for “Nasal Congestion,” “Body Aches,” and “Fever,” they would not have purchased the Products or would have paid less. They want relief from their cold symptoms, and in this case, Plaintiff and the Class members purchased “MAXIMUM STRENGTH” based on Pfizer’s false representations and omissions.

Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit that names three classes of consumers who purchased qualifying Robitussin Cough Cold + Flu products within the applicable statute of limitations:

  • Nationwide Class: All persons in the United States who purchased the Robitussin products in the United States for personal use and not for resale.
  • Illinois Subclass: All persons in the State of Illinois who purchased the Robitussin products in the State of Illinois for personal use and not for resale.
  • Multi-State Consumer Protection Class: All persons who purchased in the State of Illinois or any state with similar laws (including California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Washington) the Robitussin products for personal use and not for resale.

What Legal Claims Does the Case Raise?

The lawsuits cites unjust enrichment and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and other state consumer protection laws. It seeks monetary damages, among other civil remedies, for class members.

Milberg’s Jimmy MintzKarl J. AmelchenkoJ. Hunter BrysonErin J. RubenGary M. Klinger, and Nick Suciu III are representing the class.

The Robitussin Robitussin Cold + Flu products lawsuit raises phenylephrine and acetaminophen-related mislabeling issues similar to those in the firm’s Sudafed PE class action lawsuit and Vicks Severe Cold & Flu lawsuit.

Since 1965, Milberg has filed thousands of class action lawsuits, recovered billions of dollars for our clients, set groundbreaking legal precedents, and used litigation as a tool for far-reaching consumer protection.