Dr Ken Harvey, Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health at La Trobe University, writes:
On 18 November 2010, Jane Halton, Secretary of the Department of Health & Ageing, presented Bayer Australia with the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) Marketing Award for the best launch of a consumer healthcare product; their “Berocca Performance Twist N Go launch campaign”.
This award was said to recognise Quality Use of Medicines (QUM), innovation, marketing and sales best practice, and consumer focus. See here.
One month prior to this award, a complaint about the advertising of this product, both by Bayer and by many Internet pharmacies, had been submitted to the Complaint Resolution Panel (CRP); the body responsible for determining whether promotion breaches the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007.
In a judgement released yesterday, the CRP requested Bayer Australia Pty Ltd, in accordance with subregulation 42ZCAI(1) of the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990:
a) to withdraw the advertisement from further publication;
b) to withdraw any representations that the advertised Berocca Performance product has immediate or rapid benefits in relation to improving concentration, tiredness, or stress, or that it is clinically or scientifically proven to have benefits in relation to improving concentration, tiredness, or stress;
c) not to use the representations in (b) above in any other advertisement;
d) where the representation has been provided to other parties such as retailers or website publishers, and where there is a reasonable likelihood that the representation has been published or is intended to be published by such parties, to advise those parties that the representation(s) should be withdrawn.
I was the complainant. In my view, this is yet another example of how large sales (and even marketing awards) can be achieved by unethical promotion of complementary medicines.
Numerous submissions to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) advertising consultation and transparency review have expressed concern about the reluctance and/or inability of the TGA to address this problem.
It is particularly ironic that this marketing award was presented to Bayer by the Secretary of the Department of Health & Ageing in recognition of the product’s alleged contribution to Quality Use of Medicines, a key plank of our National Medicines Policy, see here.
Quality use of medicines is defined as:
* Selecting management options wisely;
* Choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary; and
* Using medicines safely and effectively.
Quality use of medicines cannot be achieved if sponsors of therapeutic goods promote products with claims that are inaccurate, misleading, deceptive and incapable of substantiation.
Marketing awards said to recognise QUM should never be given to products promoted unethically, no matter what sales figures they achieve.
The Department of Health & Ageing should examine the evidence supporting the claims made for such products before being involved in the presentation of marketing awards.
Finally, the TGA needs to respond to consumer and health professional concerns and strengthen therapeutic goods regulation to ensure that the penalties for unethical promotion are greater than the profits achieved by such behaviour.
Postscript from Croakey: If you would like a copy of the judgement, please leave your details below and I will forward it.