Don’t undermine public health campaigns

The TGA has reminded advertisers not to produce ads that undermine public health campaigns, such as advice to stay home when sick

As the cold and flu season begins in Australia and restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are eased, the TGA has issued a reminder about advertising medicines including those which treat respiratory symptoms.

“If you advertise cold and flu medicines, you must ensure that the advertising is not inconsistent with the current public health advice about COVID-19,” the TGA says.

“Promoting a product as enabling someone to attend a workplace, school or other activity outside of home while experiencing cold and flu symptoms (even if temporarily controlled) conflicts with the Department of Health’s advice to stay home when unwell.”

The TGA also reminded advertisers that there are sanctions and penalties for advertising which is non-compliant: claims about COVID-19 are not permitted in consumer advertising, with the exception of certain disinfectants.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration has been very active in addressing noncompliant therapeutic goods advertising, with particular attention being given to advertising related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Steve Scarff, Consumer Healthcare Products Australia’s regulatory and legal director, told the AJP.

“To date, just in relation to COVID-19 advertising, the TGA has issued $370,440 in fines and four warnings for therapeutic goods advertisers about their obligations.”

He said the new warning highlights some of the complexities inherent in therapeutic goods advertising compliance.

“What this shows is that advertisers must consider a wide range of requirements and advertising that is compliant at one point in time may not be compliant later on (as has happened here when public health campaigns change),” he said.

“Noncompliant advertising exposes advertisers to heavy fines, other sanctions as well as brand and reputational damage.

“Independent compliance checks from dedicated TGAC experts can catch these sorts of issues before publication.

“From July 1, when companies that create and/or place ads no longer have the compliance safety net of mandatory pre-approvals, voluntary use of independent compliance services provided by dedicated TGAC experts, like AdCheck, can help advertisers mitigate their noncompliance risks.”

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