GREENVILLE, Miss. (CN) – A federal class action claims the makers of a popular heartworm medicine have ignored 7 years of warnings from the FDA and jeopardized the lives of thousands of dogs by continuing to misrepresent the drug as “100 percent effective.”
The class claims Merial misrepresented its HeartGard Plus medication because years of deceptive promotional campaigns have made it the No. 1 choice of veterinarians to prevent heartworms. The five named plaintiffs say their dogs contracted heartworms while on the medication, and two dogs may die from it because they are too weak to endure the “excruciating and debilitating treatment.”
HeartGard is a beef-flavored, chewable tablet that is given monthly to dogs. Merial also makes a drug for cattle with similar ingredients as HeartGard, which it also exaggerates as “100 percent effective,” the class alleges.
Merial has exaggerating HeartGard’s efficacy since 2002, and the company only strengthened its deceptive campaign after FDA studies found that the advertisements violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, according to the complaint.
Merial dispenses 100 million doses of HeartGard a year, which have brought in $700 million of ill-gotten gains since 2002, the class claims.
Though the company stopped printing ads with the “100 percent effective” message in 2006, it has done nothing to correct the impression the old advertisements gave to hundreds of thousands veterinarians, the class claims. Over the years, Merial has supplied free placards with the false message that still decorate veterinary offices across the country.
Merial also continues to benefit from fraudulent online advertisements, and uses scare tactics to encourage sales, the class claims. Brochures use “horrific photographs” depicting blind children and infected feet to promote the false message that HeartGard prevents the dog-to-human transmission of certain diseases carried by roundworms and hookworms.
The class demands an injunction and punitive damages for fraud, breach of warranty and RICO violations. It is represented by C.W. Walker III with Lake Tindall.