BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Wink Naturals Discontinue Certain Challenged Claims for Cough Syrup Product

New York, NY – July 23, 2019 – Following a challenge by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., the National Advertising Division recommended that Wink Naturals LLC discontinue certain challenged claims in online and social media advertising for its Cough Syrup dietary supplement.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The express claims challenged by J&J included, but were not limited to:

  • Cough relief claims, such as “[S]oothing relief for coughs” and “Soothes coughs and irritated throats naturally.”
  • “Zinc and Elderberry combine to form the ultimate immune support system.”
  • “Ivy Leaf Extract for *ahem* mucus relief.”

The advertiser’s Wink Naturals Cough Syrup is a dietary supplement whose key ingredients include 1 mg of zinc (from zinc gluconate) and 2080 mg of a proprietary phytonutrient blend per serving (1 teaspoon). The subcomponents of the phytonutrient blend include black elderberry extract (fruit), elderberry flower extract (flower), ivy leaf extract, and acerola powder (berry).

The advertiser informed NAD in writing that it permanently discontinued the following claims:

  • “Doctor developed and recommended.”
  • “[C]linical evidence.”
  • “It turned into bronchitis and I lost my voice due to all the coughing and strain it put on me. When I heard we were launching a cough syrup, I thought . . . this can’t come fast enough! I got the new cough syrup in the mail over the weekend and it was my miracle product!!! It helped me so incredibly much.”
  • “This cough syrup is not just any cough syrup.”
  • “I have been coughing for nearly 8 weeks, after prescriptions and other cough syrups not helping the Wink Cough syrup has finally helped so much.”
  • “How many bottles of other cough syrup are you throwing away and replacing with our 1 Cough Syrup that works for everyone?”
  • “Finally, a natural cough syrup with benefits.”

NAD, relying on the advertiser’s representations that the claims have been permanently discontinued, did not review the claims on their merits. However, the voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims “[S]oothing relief for coughs” and “Soothes coughs and irritated throats naturally” because the support submitted by Wink was limited to two studies on the ivy leaf extract ingredient, and did not include any clinical testing on the cough syrup product as a whole. NAD noted that when the substantiation in the record consists solely of evidence regarding the efficacy of ingredients in a product, but not for the product itself, the advertising must not suggest or imply that the product provides the claimed benefits.

NAD further determined that the advertiser’s ingredient studies were not sufficiently reliable to support any qualified ingredient claims. With regard to the first study, NAD was concerned about the test’s lack of a placebo group; the non-blinded, open-label nature of the study; and the fact that the study results were based on pooled data from two tested formulations and included a wide variety of dosages. The second study was a review article of clinical evidence pertaining to a specific ivy leaf extract. NAD was concerned that the clinical results for this particular ivy leaf extract, which is obtained through a patented extraction procedure, could not be applied to other ivy leaf extracts. Finally, NAD noted that neither study addressed ivy leaf extract’s ability to “soothe irritated throats,” which is a separate symptom from cough relief.

With regard to the claim “Zinc and Elderberry combine to form the ultimate immune support system,” NAD concluded that when viewed in the context in which it appears on the Wink Cough product website as part of the product description, the claim “ultimate immune support” is puffery. NAD found it likely to be understood as hyperbole or an expression of pride rather than an unqualified superiority claim against all immune support products on the market. Consequently, NAD determined that the claim “Zinc and Elderberry combine to form the ultimate immune support system” did not communicate a message of superior performance requiring substantiation.

Finally, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “Ivy Leaf Extract for *ahem* mucus relief,” after concluding that the studies in the record did not provide a reasonable basis for this claim.

In its advertiser’s statement, Wink Naturals stated that it “agrees to comply with the recommendations of NAD” and that it “has voluntarily made a number of modifications to its advertising to avoid any misunderstandings.”