A newly filed class action complaint alleges that the Walgreen-brand of various herbal supplements don't contain materials they are supposed to, as well as contain materials they are not supposed to.
Plaintiff Donald Weeks claims he bought the Walgreens brand of Gingko Biloba - said to have an ability to improve memory - from a store in Edwardsville on more than one occasion within the last three years.
The suit claims that Walgreens' Gingko Biloba does not contain gingko biloba, rather, it contains oryza - commonly known as rice.
The complaint, filed Feb. 17 in Madison County Circuit Court, follows an investigtion by the New York Attorney General who, on Feb. 2, issued cease and desist letters regarding Walgreens' "Finest Nutrition" brand of dietary supplements.
The attorney general's investigation involved the testing of Gingko Bilboa, St. John's Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto supplements.
"Using established DNA barcoding technology, analytic testing disclosed that five of the six tested dietary supplement products (all but the Saw Palmetto) were either unrecognizable or a substance other than what they claimed to be," the complaint states.
The suit says that only 18 percent of the tests yielded DNA matching the product label; 45 percent tested for botanical material other than what was on the label; and 37 percent yielded no plant DNA at all.
The global market for herbal dietary supplements is estimated at $100 billion, according to the complaint.
"Herbal supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but not to the same extent as prescription pharmaceuticals," the suit says. "They have not been subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as prescription drugs."
The World Health Organization, according to the suit, states that the adulteration of herbal products is a threat to consumer safety.
Weeks is represented by Thomas Rosenfeld of the Goldenberg firm in Edwardsville.
The suit seeks class certification, an order enjoining Walgreens from selling the products that don't contain the ingredients as stated, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.
Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-203.