Sanofi, the global biopharmaceutical conglomerate headquartered in France, is accused of misrepresenting the strength and longevity of its over-the-counter Aspercreme brand of pain relief patches, allege consumers who filed a proposed class action suit in a federal Illinois court on Saturday.
Aspercreme is an external analgesic pain-relief product that contains the active ingredient, lidocaine, which is a topical anesthetic.
The product’s packaging promises “fast acting” and “max strength” pain relief, according to the lawsuit filed by named plaintiff Sherry Cruz. However, Cruz claims the marketing verbiage on the packaging is misleading. That’s because they insinuate that the patches contain the maximum amount of lidocaine to the affected area.
According to Law360.com, Cruz said, “This is false because other patch products deliver more lidocaine to affected areas, are more effective, are approved by the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] for more purposes than defendant’s product and are supported by clinical studies.”
Added Cruz, “The ‘fast acting’ claim is misleading because it implies the product provides immediate pain relief when it does not. The product uses a thicker patch than similar products, resulting in a less effective and slower delivery of lidocaine to the affected area.”
The suit also accuses Sanofi’s patches of failing to adhere for 12 hours, which the packaging claims. The “flexible fabric,” Sanofi promises, is easy to apply and can be used for up to 12 hours, implying that the pain-relief patch can provide a half-day’s worth of analgesic effect. However, the suit says that reports and studies show that the patch often fails to stick to the skin for even six hours.
Sanofi’s labeling claims that the product “numbs away pain.” This is misleading, the suit alleges, because the claim implies that pain will be mitigated because pain receptors will be blocked and nerves will be desensitized, when in fact this is not the case.
In addition, verbiage on the package claims “targeted relief” for users’ main joint areas. This assertion provides consumers the impression they can treat neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain. Yet the product is only authorized for temporary pain relief and to soothe minor skin irritations such as itching, minor burns and cuts, sunburns, scrapes and insect bites, Cruz asserts, per Law360.com.
The cost of Aspercreme patches is over $8 for five patches without tax. Cruz says that she would not have paid this premium price had she known about Sanofi’s “misleading representations and omissions.”
“Reasonable consumers must and do rely on defendant to honestly describe the components and features of the product, relative to itself and other comparable products. Plaintiff did not scrutinize the drug facts nor was she required to do so,” her complaint said, per Law360.com. The complaint added, “No independent, credible studies support the claims made in support of the product. Even if plaintiff scrutinized the drug facts, it would not cure the misrepresentations.”
All Aspercreme purchasers who reside in Illinois during the applicable statutes of limitations are eligible to join the class. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Law360.com reports that the complaint predicts that damages are likely to exceed $5 million.
According to Law360.com, Sanofi is accused in the suit of breaches of express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability and the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, unjust enrichment and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.