In the U.S., Walmart and CVS are two of the most popular retailers for health necessities—whether you're in need of over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medicine as winter approaches, or you have a regular daily prescription to pick up. But even as a health hub for millions of Americans, these two companies face their fare share of backlash. In fact, Walmart and CVS are now both under fire for some of the products they're selling. Read on to find out why the two retailers are being accused of "misleading" shoppers about certain medications.
Retailers have come under fire for medication practices in the past.
Medications, whether OTC or prescription, come with serious risks and potential complications, which is why the retailers who sell them often find themselves mired in controversy. Back in April, Kroger was hit with a lawsuit from two shoppers who claimed its "non-drowsy" cold and flu medications were actually causing drowsiness. That same month, both Walgreens and Walmart were sued over their lidocaine patches, with consumers alleging that the two retailers products were not as long-lasting or as strong as they claimed to be.
Now, Walmart has been linked with another major pharmacy chain in a new controversy: Both Walmart and CVS are being hit with a lawsuit over the same medication complaint.
Walmart and CVS are facing backlash over the same issue.
On Sept. 30, Reuters reported that the District of Columbia's Court of Appeals had revived two lawsuits against Walmart and CVS for selling homeopathic products alongside OTC medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in stores and online. The court reversed lower-court rulings against the suits that come from the nonprofit Center for Inquiry (CFI).
"The D.C. Court of Appeals has given us the chance to prove that what the retailers have done is fraudulent, and now it's our job to prove it to a jury," CFI Legal Director Nick Little said in statement to Reuters.
Best Life has reached out to both Walmart and CVS for comment on the lawsuits, but has not yet heard back.
The lawsuits claim the placement of these products is misleading shoppers.
In the suits, CFI claims that Walmart and CVS are both misleading shoppers and violating Washington, D.C.'s Consumer Protection Procedures Act by selling homeopathic remedies in the medicine aisle alongside FDA-approved medications. According to court filings, "each complaint alleged that the defendant retailer's in-store and online product placement, along with aisle signage (e.g., 'Cold, Cough&Flu Relief'), falsely present homeopathic products as equivalent alternatives to 'science-based' medicines and falsely represent that homeopathic products are effective in treating or relieving specific diseases and symptoms."
This is not only a violation of the consumer law, but also affects customers' judgment when buying certain products, according to the lawsuits. "This placement is deceptive to consumers who can easily confuse it for scientifically-tested products that provably work—which they are not," CFI said in a Sept. 29 news release.
CFI wants all retailers to stop selling homeopathic products alongside OTC medication.
Little has praised the recent decision to reverse the lawsuits' dismissed by lower D.C. courts. "The Court of Appeals rightly recognized that giant retailers can't just deny responsibility for how they present what are fundamentally worthless products," he said in a Sept. 29 statement. "It's a huge victory for consumers and their right not to be misled."
But CFI still has to battle both Walmart and CVS in court over the claims in its suits, Little noted. The decision has "given us the chance to prove that these retailers are defrauding consumers," he said. "Now it's up to us to do that."
Walmart spokeswoman Abby Williams-Bailey told Reuters that the company disagrees with the Court of Appeals' decision to reignite CFI suit against it. "We are continuing to review the Court's decision and weighing our options for further appellate review," she said in an email to the news outlet. CVS, on the other hand, did not respond.
But Walmart and CVS likely won't be the last companies dealing with this problem. Little told Reuters that the Court of Appeals' decision "put retailers of drugs across the country in notice that they can be held responsible for the message they send by how they sign and display fake alternative medicine." He added, "Our goal is to ensure that all retailers stop this misrepresentation."