Spring Cleaning for OTC: And What That ACTUALLY Means

March 16, 2021

Spring is finally, well, springing. And top of mind for me is cleaning out the clutter – especially in the bathroom. My makeup, skincare and even OTC medications have been unruly to say the least. As part of this, I am also taking a look at all of the products I have and evaluating if a cleaner or greener option is available. While I have always been fairly conscious with beauty, I never knew that there was a better option for my medicine. After doing a little digging I came across Genexa, a company known for their clean medicine. Basically, they use the active ingredients we all need like acetaminophen, but without all of the fillers and junk we don’t. Intrigued, I actually spoke to the founders of the brand, David Johnson and Max Spielberg, to hear more about what exactly clean medicine meant, why they started the brand, and how we can tell the difference among all of the “cleanwashing” out there. 

Tell us why you started Genexa? 

We started Genexa because as two dads, we were disgusted by what we found in so many of the ingredients found in kids OTC medicines. We could not understand why so many other industries had already started getting cleaned up – beauty, skincare, food, beverage, automotive – but pharma was behind. It’s the most counterintuitive thought in the world for the medicines that are supposed to help you feel better would have the most sickening ingredients. So we decided to do something about it and after many doors getting shut in our face, found partners with deep expertise in formulation, manufacturing, and medicine to create what we call real medicine made clean.

You say that it’s the first clean medicine company – but what does that really mean? 

Our products have the same exact active ingredient as leading brands – like diphenhydramine – which is the reason you take the medicine in the first place. But we take all the unhealthy inactive ingredients – like talc, wood pulp, fake sugars, allergens, etc. – out and replace them with organic, non-GMO better for you ingredients. That means diphenhydramine with the same efficacy as Children’s Bendaryl, but instead of sodium benzoate (which can convert to a potential carcinogen), we use organic citrus acid (which is naturally found in citrus fruits). 

Why do consumers even need to care about what is in their OTC medicines? 

Consumers have only been given 1 option for far too long — synthetic, potentially harmful ingredients in their medicines. Today, more than ever, consumers can impact what products are being made and demand change with their wallets. I don’t think the big pharma companies making these OTCs are putting people first when they’re putting in ingredients like talc (which have been linked to cancer) or artificial dyes (which have been linked to ADD and ADHD) in their medicines. These are terrible ingredients that these companies put in their formulas because they’re cheap. Like sucralose, which is 4% the cost of sugar. These ingredients have been in OTC medicines for decades and they don’t care to really make a change. Consumers deserve better and it starts by them knowing what’s in their medicines. 

Max, you personally also suffered from side effects due to ingredients in OTC medicines, can you talk a little about your experience? 

When I was a kid, I had severe seasonal allergies; but, when I tried to take over-the-counter medicine for relief, I had multiple allergic reactions. I still have terrible seasonal allergies, but I can’t take drugs with synthetic ingredients because my temperature spikes and I break out in a horrible rash all over my body. My reaction is not abnormal. 35MM Americans have allergic reactions to ingredients found in food, drinks and medicines they ingest. I’ve talked to customers that went to the ER because of anaphylaxis reactions to ingredients in Benadryl. Our CMO’s grew up with a brother who would get a 104+ degree fever, which initiated seizures, anytime he had Red Dye #40 — which is found in many of the red liquid medicines on shelf. Too many people, just like me, are allergic to these ingredients and just don’t know they are the root cause. 

What’s next? 

Last year we extended our line of Kids’ medicines. We have a robust pipeline of both adult and kids’ medicines that will launch later this year and next. We are on a mission to revolutionize the entire medicine aisle — creating clean alternatives to every medicine on shelf today. And beyond just creating clean products, our ambition is to create change at the systemic level. There’s no reason that the US should allow ingredients in products we ingest that are banned in other parts of the world. We want to raise awareness about what’s really in the products we’re putting in our bodies, and be the impetus for change systemically. 

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