If you've seen Purell's claims that Purell "kills more than 99.99% of the most common germs that may cause illness in a healthcare setting, including MRSA"—well, the FDA wishes you hadn't. In a Jan. 17 notice, it instructed Purell maker Gojo Industries to cut out the unproven claims that its hand sanitizers can keep people from coming down with the flu, Ebola, the MRSA superbug, and norovirus. CNN reports the FDA said the marketing suggests Purell is a drug "intended for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease." As such, Gojo Industries can either kill that marketing or actually market Purell as a drug, but it would need to file with the FDA to request classification as a drug.
In its warning letter the FDA states it "is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus." The New York Times notes that the CDC advises people wash their hands with soap and water to cut down on the spread of germs, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer made up of at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren't available; Purell is 70% ethyl alcohol. (Read more Purell stories.)