Abbott Labs is sued over PediaSure height claims

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York City woman sued Abbott Laboratories on Monday, accusing the healthcare company of misleading consumers into believing its PediaSure nutrition drinks were "clinically proven" to increase children's height.

In a proposed class action filed in Manhattan federal court, Joanne Noriega said she bought PediaSure Grow & Gain vanilla and strawberry drinks for her eight-year-old grandson, who was "short for his age," believing they would help him get taller.

The Bronx resident said that by February, after a year of two PediaSure drinks per day, her grandson was still short for his age and had become "so overweight" that she stopped buying the drinks.

Noriega dismissed PediaSure as "just a flavored sugar and milk-based drink that contains vitamins, which is not a cure for shortness." She said also that Abbott "knows from its own studies that its Clinically Proven Claim is false and misleading."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for New Yorkers who were allegedly deceived into buying or overpaying for PediaSure.

"This case is without merit," Abbott said in a statement. "PediaSure is a scientifically designed complete and balanced nutrition solution for children to help support growth and development."

Lawyers for Noriega did not respond to requests for comment, including additional information about her grandson.

Abbott says PediaSure is intended for children ages two to 13, and has been clinically shown to help children "grow out of at-risk weight-for-height percentiles (5th-25th percentiles)" within eight weeks.

PediaSure is part of the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company's pediatric nutritional segment, which also includes Pedialyte and Similac.

U.S. sales from that unit fell 29% last year, in large part because of Abbott's recall of infant formula from a Michigan plant.

The case is Noriega v Abbott Laboratories, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 23-04014.

For plaintiff: James Denlea, of Denlea & Carton; and Philip Smith, of Kravit Smith

For Abbott: Not known

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)