BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Cosmederm Bioscience Discontinue Challenged Claims for TriCalm Anti-Itch Product

Editor’s Note: This press release was revised 10.28.15 to reflect Cosmederm’s decision to withdraw its appeal to the National Advertising Review Board. It reflects Cosmederm’s revised  advertiser’s statement.

New York, NY –  June 23, 2015  – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Cosmederm Bioscience, Inc., discontinue advertising claims for the company’s TriCalm over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch product, following a challenge by Chattem, Inc., the maker of Cortizone-10, an external analgesic formulated with hydrocortisone 1%.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

NAD reviewed express claims that included:

  • “Most over the counter topical itch relievers don’t give you the relief you need.”
  • “Five times more effective than 1% hydrocortisone at reducing itch.”
  • “5X MORE EFFECTIVE than hydrocortisone 1% at reducing itch.*   *Head-to-head comparison of Topical Hydrocortisone 1% and TriCalm in a cowhage-induced itch model.  Data on file.”
  • “Dermatologist Recommended” in close proximity to “for itching, burning and stinging.”

NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that:

  • Hydrocortisone products do not provide effective itch relief,
  • TriCalm is five times more effective at relieving all itches relieved by hydrocortisone 1%.
  • An adequate and well-controlled survey of dermatologists confirms that TriCalm is recommended for treating all itching, burning and stinging, including all itching, burning and stinging associated with minor skin irritations.

The challenged television commercial featured Chuck Woolery, former game show host, who said that “as we age, itchy skin gets worse.  And most topical itch relievers don’t give you the itch relief you need.  So get steroid-free TriCalm for fast itch relief.  TriCalm is five times more effective than hydrocortisone 1% at reducing itch … if you have dry, itchy skin, relieve it with guaranteed TriCalm.”

Two radio advertisements made similar claims, although one focused on “summer itches” and the other addressed “dry, itchy, winter skin.”

The challenged Internet advertisement featured a package of TriCalm to the left of which appears the language, in large type, “5X MORE EFFECTIVE,” and below, in smaller type, “than hydrocortisone 1% at reducing itch.”* The disclaimer appears below the product packaging: “*Head-to-head comparison of Topical Hydrocortisone 1% and TriCalm in a cowhage-induced itch model.  Data on file.”

NAD determined that the challenged advertisements reasonably conveyed the message that TriCalm is 5X more effective than hydrocortisone 1% at reducing many different kinds of itches hydrocortisone is intended to treat, particularly for an aging population and for itches that occur during the summer and winter months. NAD determined, however, that the advertiser’s evidence didn’t support the challenged claims. For example, NAD noted in its decision, the product was not tested according to consumer-use directions and was tested on itches that were induced, as opposed to naturally occurring. In addition, neither of the key studies offered by the advertiser tested older populations or was conducted during the winter.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the challenged claims. The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that it “respectfully disagrees with NAD’s opinion in its entirety and is deeply disappointed in the conclusions reached.”

Cosmederm, in its revised advertiser’s statement, said the following: “Although Cosmederm respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by NAD and unequivocally believes all of the challenged claims are fully substantiated by the clinical studies it provided on the product itself, Cosmederm hereby withdraws its appeal of NAD’s decision. In the spirit of promoting the self-regulatory process, Cosmederm will keep NAD’s recommendations in mind when developing future advertising. Cosmederm thanks NAD and NARB for its role in the advertising self-regulatory process.”