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How to spot a dodgy health product ad

14 May 2020

Ads for health products are everywhere, but don't believe everything you read.

Some ads break the law, whether it's by offering a miracle cure or advertising an unapproved medicine. Other ads just need a little extra scrutiny, such as a fad treatment promoted by a social media influencer.

Our tips can help you avoid dodgy health products and challenge bogus advertisements when you see them.

Misleading claims

If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

Ads for health products must be truthful. If these ads mislead, they are illegal. This includes any claim that a medicine is 100% effective, a miracle cure, harmless or free of side effects. Ads for weight loss medicines must also say that the product only works as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Unapproved medicines

Before you buy, check for an AUST number.

Every approved medicine has an AUST L, AUST L(A) or AUST R number on the label. Medicines that do not have an AUST number are unapproved and may contain prohibited or dangerous ingredients, or may be manufactured in unsanitary conditions. Advertising unapproved medicines is illegal.

For more information on AUST numbers, visit How we regulate medicines.

Social influencers

Leave advice about your health to the professionals.

Recommendations for health products by people who are not health professionals, such as social media influencers, can be dangerous to rely on. Influencers may give incorrect advice or profit by promoting the product. Get your health advice, based on your particular circumstances, from qualified professionals instead.

Any ad that claims a health product prevents or cures COVID-19 is likely to be illegal.

Claims referring to cancer or other serious conditions

Cancer claims are extremely dangerous.

Ads for health products cannot refer to cancer, mental illness, sexually transmitted infections, COVID-19 or other serious conditions without permission from the TGA. If you have a serious health concern, always talk to a health professional.

Note that ads for sunscreens may mention the prevention of skin cancers, while products such as condoms that can prevent sexually transmitted infections may refer to these conditions.

Report dodgy ads for health products

If you see an ad for a health product that seems to break the law, you can submit an advertising complaint to us.

Learn more

Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra.