Australian Regulatory Guidelines for Advertising Therapeutic Goods (ARGATG)

Guidance for advertisers

8 October 2020

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

This guidance is effective from 1 July 2018, unless otherwise specified.

Sections of this guidance are still under development. We will be adding information to the ARGATG in stages.

This guidance informs advertisers (including sponsors, manufacturers, importers, pharmacists and health professionals) of their responsibilities when advertising therapeutic goods. All advertising of therapeutic goods is subject to the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act). For those therapeutic goods that can be advertised to the public, advertising must comply with the requirements of the Act and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (the Code).

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for administering the Act and the Code. We have the authority to apply penalties with various consequences for advertisers who do not meet their advertising requirements.

If you are a member of the public and are interested in how therapeutic good advertising is regulated or would like to make a complaint about an advertisement, please see the TGA website: Advertising therapeutic goods.

This guidance provides information to advertisers about:

For additional educational tools and fact sheets to help you understand your advertising requirements, see Advertising therapeutic goods on the TGA website.

This guidance has been developed by TGA and therefore the use of 'we' and 'us' throughout refers to TGA.

All examples provided in this guidance have been compiled to demonstrate the application of the legislation.

See the TGA glossary for definitions relevant to the regulation of therapeutic goods in Australia.

The advertising regulatory framework

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Advertisements for therapeutic goods are subject to the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act) and the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and other relevant laws. Advertisements for therapeutic goods directed to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (the Code).

Advertising and the Act

Section 3 of the Act defines advertise in relation to therapeutic goods to include:

  • any statement, pictorial representation or design that is intended, whether directly or indirectly, to promote the use or supply of the goods, including where the statement, pictorial representation or design:
    • is on the label of the goods; or
    • is on the package in which the goods are contained; or
    • is on any material included with the package in which the goods are contained

The 'intention' referred to in the definition above is not what you, as the advertiser, intend by releasing the information but rather what the end viewer thinks you intended. If the public or health professional considers that the information promotes the use or supply of the identified goods, then we would consider it an advertisement (see Activities that represent advertising).

The Act:

  • prohibits certain types of therapeutic goods from being advertised to the public
  • contains a range of requirements that you must meet when advertising therapeutic goods. This includes the requirement for all therapeutic goods advertising to the public to comply with the Code.
  • provides for a range of compliance and enforcement tools that the TGA may employ to address non-compliant advertising.

Advertising and the Code

The purpose of the Code is to ensure that the marketing and advertising of therapeutic goods to the public is conducted in a socially responsible manner that promotes the quality use of therapeutic goods and does not mislead or deceive the public.

On 1 January 2019, the current version of the Code (2015) will be replaced by the 2018 Code.

Replacing the 2015 Code with the 2018 Code

The 2018 Code contains a number of changes and improvements from the 2015 Code. The 2018 Code aims to:

  • assist all advertisers in understanding the advertising requirements
  • provide objective tests to determine breaches of the Code, which is needed to support the broadened sanctions and penalties (including infringement notices)
  • address the inconsistencies between medicines and medical devices (where appropriate)
  • incorporate changes to the Code that have been discussed with stakeholders in recent years but have been on hold while the advertising framework was under review.

A consultation on proposed improvements to the Code was held in August 2017.

The Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2018 is available on the TGA website, following public consultation on a draft of the 2018 Code.

There is more information on the transition arrangements for the 2018 Code on the TGA website.

Section 42BAA of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act) allows the Minister, or their delegate, to make a code relating to advertisements about therapeutic goods in the form of a legislative instrument.

It is a criminal offence under section 42DM of the Act to advertise a therapeutic good to consumers in a way that does not comply with the Code. Section 42DMA provides for corresponding civil penalties.

Limitations on advertising to the public

When advertising therapeutic goods to the public, you cannot advertise:

  • indications for products that are not consistent with those indications that have been accepted in relation to the product's inclusion in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) (section 22, 32BJ and 41ML of the Act). Note that this requirement also applies to advertising to health professionals
  • products containing ingredients specified in Schedules 3, 4 or 8 of the current Poisons Standard unless, in the case of Schedule 3 medicines, the ingredients appear in Appendix H of the current Poisons Standard (section 42DL(10) of the Act)
  • biologicals (section 42DL(11) of the Act)
  • autologous human cell and tissue (HCT) products excluded from being subject to therapeutic goods legislation, because one of the criteria for exclusion is not being advertised directly to consumers
  • therapeutic goods that are required to be entered but are not in the ARTG (illegal therapeutic goods) (section 42DL(12) of the Act).

You are required to seek permission or approval from TGA before using Restricted representations (representations which refer to serious diseases or conditions) in advertising therapeutic goods to the public.

Jurisdiction

Section 6 of the Act limits the operation of the Act, and therefore the Code, to

  1. activities by corporations; and
  2. activities by natural persons:
    1. in the course of, or in preparation for, trade or commerce between Australia and a place outside Australia, among the States, between a State and a Territory or between 2 Territories; or
    2. under a law of the Commonwealth relating to the provision of pharmaceutical or repatriation benefits; or
    3. in relation to the Commonwealth

As such, neither the Act, nor the Code, apply to sole traders that operate solely within the state or territory in which they are based. However, advertisers should be aware that the promotion of therapeutic goods online may be considered trade or commerce across state/territory borders and therefore the Act and Code may apply. Sole traders operating solely intrastate should also be aware that some states and territories have adopted the advertising requirements in the Act and the Code.

The advertising requirements in the Act and the Code only apply to the advertising of therapeutic goods, as defined in section 3 of the Act. The advertising of goods that are not therapeutic goods, including foods and goods excluded from the operation of the Act under sections 7 or 7AA, is not subject to the requirements of the Act and the Code. However, some goods, when advertised with therapeutic claims, may be considered therapeutic goods. See advertising interface products and Complementary medicines interface issues for more information.

Other requirements

When preparing to advertise therapeutic goods to the public, you will need to consider other legal requirements as well as those set out in the Act and the Code.

Other relevant laws include:

  • Australian Consumer Law
  • National Health Practitioner Law (where the advertiser is a regulated health practitioner)
  • State and territory poisons and other legislation.

Depending on a range of factors, including the advertising medium used, there may also be self-regulatory requirements that apply. For example:

  • Advertisements to appear on free-to-air television require clearance by FreeTV Australia's Commercial Advice
  • Advertisements to the public from sponsors of therapeutic goods may be captured by their industry organisations' respective self-regulatory codes. For example:
    • Australian Self Medication Industry Code of Practice;
    • Complementary Medicines Australia Marketing & Supply Code of Practice: Complementary Medicines;
    • Medical Technology Association of Australia Code of Practice; and
    • IVD Australia Code of Conduct.

The Communications Council has a useful list of advertising codes and regulations that apply in Australia.

Quality use of medicines

The therapeutic goods advertising legislation is grounded in the Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) framework.

Quality Use of Medicines means:

  • Selecting management options wisely by:
    • considering the place of medicines in treating illness and maintaining health, and
    • recognising that there may be better ways than medicine to manage many disorders.
  • Choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary so that the best available option is selected by taking into account:
    • the individual
    • the clinical condition
    • risks and benefits
    • dosage and length of treatment
    • any co-existing conditions
    • other therapies
    • monitoring considerations
    • costs for the individual, the community and the health system as a whole.
  • Using medicines safely and effectively to get the best possible results by:
    • monitoring outcomes,
    • minimising misuse, over-use and under-use, and
    • improving people's ability to solve problems related to medication, such as negative effects or managing multiple medications.

Under the QUM framework, consumers should be able to select management options wisely; choose suitable medicines (if a medicine is considered necessary); and use medicines safely and effectively. Similar considerations apply to medical devices and other therapeutic goods that may be appropriate for self-selection by consumers for use in the care of themselves or their family.

To support the principles of the QUM framework, industry should be able to provide truthful information to potential consumers about the nature and benefits of therapeutic goods. They should be able to do so through responsible advertising, where this will enhance the health outcomes of the Australian people.

In this context, the Code is pivotal to establishing a robust and effective system for regulating advertising of all therapeutic goods to the public. It aids in giving consumers confidence that the claims they read and hear are well-founded, and it should provide a level playing field for industry.

In the event of any inconsistency between the Act or the Code and other policies, the Act and the Code prevail.

World Health Organization criteria

The advertising legislation, especially the Code, also draws on concepts used in the World Health Organisation: Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion 1988, namely:

  1. Promotion refers to all informational activities by manufacturers and distributors, the effect of which is to induce the prescription, supply, purchase and/or use of medicinal products.
  2. All promotion-making claims concerning medicinal drugs should be reliable, accurate, truthful, informative, balanced, up-to-date, capable of substantiation and in good taste. They should not contain misleading or unverifiable statements or omissions likely to induce medically unjustifiable drug use or give rise to undue risks.
  3. Comparison of products should be factual, fair and capable of substantiation.
  4. Advertisements to the general public should help people to make rational decisions on the use of drugs determined to be legally available without prescription. While they should take into account people's legitimate desire for information regarding their health, they should not take undue advantage of people's concern for their health, nor mislead the consumer into unwisely relying on medicines to solve physical, emotional or mood problems.
  5. The provision of free samples to the general public for promotional purposes is difficult to justify from a health perspective.
  6. Advertisements may claim that a drug can cure, prevent or relieve an ailment only if this can be substantiated.
  7. Language which brings fear or distress should not be used.
  8. Advertisements should not be allowed for certain serious conditions that can be treated only by qualified health practitioners.

Advertising and endorsements

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

You are not permitted to refer to TGA, use a government logo, or imply that any government body (including a foreign government agency) endorses a therapeutic good in any advertisement to the public.

Implying government approval

Do not make reference to government agencies (domestic or foreign), including TGA, in any advertising or promotional material as this potentially implies endorsement by that agency. This includes:

  • statements such as 'TGA approved' or 'Government endorsed'
  • using the TGA logo or the Commonwealth Coat of Arms
  • statements that a therapeutic good is 'included in the ARTG by the TGA', 'registered by the TGA', 'TGA listed' or similar.

Advertising ARTG entry

The ARTG contains information about therapeutic goods that can be commercially supplied in Australia.

We encourage you, as the advertiser, to provide the public with a product's ARTG details.

However, you are not permitted to make a broad statement that a therapeutic good is listed, registered, or included in the ARTG, even where factually correct, unless it forms part of a statement of the ARTG number.

You may use terms such as:

  • For devices: 'Product X is entered in the ARTG, <ARTG number>'
  • For biologicals: 'Product X is included in the ARTG, <ARTG number>'
  • For medicines and other therapeutic goods that are:
    • listed in the ARTG: 'Product X is listed in the ARTG, AUST L <ARTG number>'
    • registered in the ARTG: 'Product X is registered in the ARTG, AUST R <ARTG number>'

You should also be aware of the important differences between TGA classifications for products entered in the ARTG. We classify medicines as registered, assessed listed or listed. It would be inaccurate and misleading to identify a therapeutic good in advertising as a different classification.

Advertising different types of therapeutic goods

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

The regulation of advertising for different types of therapeutic goods can be quite different. It is important that you understand the specific requirements related to the type of good you are advertising.

Restricted scheduled substances

Restricted scheduled substances are therapeutic goods containing a pharmacist only medicine (schedule 3), prescription only medicine (schedule 4) or controlled drug (schedule 8) of the Poisons Standard. These substances need a health professional to assess whether the therapeutic good is appropriate and suitable for a patient before they are prescribed.

You cannot advertise restricted scheduled substances to the public. This is prohibited under subsection 42DL(10) of the Act and is not permitted.

There are some exceptions including:

  • schedule 3 substances listed in Appendix H of the poisons standard
  • prescription medicine price lists that comply with the Price Information Code of Practice (before 1 January 2019) or Schedule 4 of the 2018 Code (on or after 1 January 2019)

For information on the advertising requirements and restricted scheduled substances see:

Medical devices

For information on advertising medical devices see:

Biologicals

Generally, you cannot advertise biologicals to the public (section 42DL(11) of the Act).

A few biologicals are entirely excluded from the therapeutic goods legislation, while others are only excluded on the condition that they are not advertised to the public. If such biologicals were advertised to the public, they would be subject to regulation under the biological framework and the advertising requirements (including offences) would apply.

We have the authority to use various enforcement tools if your advertising does not comply with requirements.

Subject to any jurisdictional limitations, these requirements apply to advertising by any person, including health professionals, professional bodies, media outlets and commercial ventures. The requirements apply to advertising in all forms of media, including:

  • traditional media (such as television, radio, print media and posters/displays)
  • electronic media (such as websites, emails, blogs, discussion forums and social media).

As biologicals cannot be advertised to the public, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code will not generally be relevant.

Advertising of services is permitted

Services (that do not mention specific therapeutic goods) are permitted to be advertised, see advertising health services.

To advertise services and comply with the therapeutic goods legislation, the advertising should:

  • focus on the services that your business provides without referencing the biological or excluded autologous human cell and tissue (HCT) product
  • not make any specific reference to biologicals or excluded autologous HCT products associated with the services
  • not provide information and/or advice, on medical or dental professional's (or clinics) websites, for patients to consider particular types of treatments involving biologicals or excluded autologous HCT products; however, such information can be provided to patients as part of a consultation with the professional
  • not reference trade names of biologicals or excluded autologous HCT products (e.g. abbreviations, acronyms) or colloquial names such as 'stem cells'

An advertisement for a health service that specifies the use of any biological or excluded autologous HCT product associated with that service is not permitted as it would promote the product also.

Testimonials that refer to biologicals or excluded autologous HCT products are likely to be considered advertising and are subject to the same requirements.

Restricted representations and advertising

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Restricted representations (whether made expressly or by implication) can only be used in advertisements for therapeutic goods directed to consumers if TGA has permitted or approved the use of that representation.

What is a restricted representation?

A restricted representation is a representation (whether expressly or by implication) in an advertisement that refers to a serious form of a disease, condition, ailment or defect, as defined in the Code. See 'What is a restricted representation?'’ for more information.

Permitted restricted representations

The TGA has permitted the use of certain restricted representations by all advertisers of therapeutic goods that meet the characteristics and requirements specified by the TGA. These permitted restricted representations include:/p>

  • certain neural tube defect risk reduction in pregnancy representations when advertising medicines that deliver a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid in a daily dose
  • representations about reducing the risk of osteoporosis when advertising medicines that deliver a minimum of 290mg of elemental calcium in a daily dose
  • representations about sleep apnoea, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea/Apnoea (CSA) in relation to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) equipment

Copies of the written notices of approval or permission for the use of restricted representations are available from the published notices of approved and permitted restricted representations.

Where the TGA has permitted the use of a relevant restricted representation, advertisers do not need to apply for approval to use a restricted representation unless:

  • the permission has been granted to a specific person or business
  • the representations to be used are not captured by the terms of the permission
  • the goods to be advertised do not meet the specifications in the permission.

Applying for approval to use restricted representations

If an advertiser wants to use a restricted representation in advertising therapeutic goods to consumers but there is no existing approval or permission, they must seek approval by submitting an application for approval to the TGA.

Approval is not required for advertising that is directed exclusively to healthcare professionals, or generic information about therapeutic goods that is not advertising (as defined in the Act).

Complete an Application for approval to use a restricted representation in advertising.

What to consider when seeking approval

The TGA can only grant approval for the use of a restricted representation for therapeutic goods that are already entered in (or exempt from inclusion in) the ARTG.

Any proposed restricted representation must be consistent with:

  • the product's accepted indications or intended purpose, as per its ARTG entry; and/or
  • any mandatory warning or cautionary statements which are required to be included in the product packaging/labelling in order to satisfy other regulatory requirements.

You should prepare your application with reference to the guidance on submitting an application for approval to use a restricted representation and the application checklist.

Sanctions and penalties for non-compliant advertising

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

TGA's approach to compliance is described in the Regulatory Compliance Framework. This framework allows us to escalate actions to achieve compliance, depending on the severity of the non-compliance and your attitude towards compliance.

We have the authority to use various enforcement tools if your advertising does not comply with requirements. We can apply these actions at any time, even if your advertisement was not brought to our attention by a complaint. These actions can have various consequences for you as the advertiser ranging from mild to very serious.

We may take any of the following actions when advertising is found to be non-compliant:

*As of 1 July 2017, the value of a penalty unit is $210. The value of a penalty unit is listed in the Crimes Act 1914.

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We may send you a letter or visit you in person to educate you or your staff on advertising requirements for therapeutic goods. You may choose to engage with a regulatory affairs consultant or a lawyer to assist you in ensuring your advertisement complies with all relevant requirements. You should implement procedures to ensure that all future advertising meets relevant requirements to avoid further or more serious compliance action.

We may refer:

We may send you a warning letter requesting that you amend your advertisement to ensure compliance within a specified timeframe. We will then confirm with you whether the advertisement has been made compliant. If you fail to address the compliance issues identified in the warning letter, we may escalate the compliance action.

We may use substantiation notices to request information to establish the person responsible for an advertisement or to obtain information to substantiate claims made in an advertisement. If you receive a substantiation notice from us, you must provide the information we have requested.

If you fail to comply with a substantiation notice, we may publish a warning notice under section 42DY to alert the public to possible advertising issues or prosecute you under section 42DS of the Act. This carries a maximum penalty of 500 penalty units* (in 2017-18, $105,000).

Providing false or misleading information in response to a substantiation notice can also be prosecuted with a maximum penalty of 1000 penalty units* and/or 12 months imprisonment. We may also pursue civil action for the provision of false or misleading information (section 42DT of the Act).

The Secretary of the Department of Health directs you to take steps to address non-compliant advertising and/or retract or correct your advertising.

If you fail to comply with a direction, it may result in criminal prosecution or civil proceedings.

We will publish directions on the TGA website.

You can request a review of a direction issued under section 42DV of the Act.

Under the Act, we can suspend or cancel your therapeutic good from the ARTG on the basis of advertising non-compliance. Suspension or cancellation is limited to cases where the sponsor of the therapeutic good is responsible for the non-compliant advertising.

If we suspect that there has been a breach of the legislation in relation to the advertising of the therapeutic good, we can issue a written notice to the public containing a warning about the advertised goods, if it is satisfied that it is in the public interest to issue the notice.

We can also issue a public warning notice if you fail to comply with a substantiation notice and it is in the public interest to issue such a notice.

Infringement notices will have a maximum 12 penalty units* for an individual or 60 penalty units* for an incorporated body for non-compliant advertising.

In 2017-18, this will result in fines of $2520 for an individual and $12,600 for an incorporated body.

We may issue multiple infringement notices, depending on the number of non-compliances identified. Even if the notice is paid, you will need to address the non-compliant advertising that resulted in the infringement notice in order to avoid future criminal or civil proceedings.

Under certain circumstances, and where it is clear that the advertiser wants to comply, we may accept the offer of an enforceable undertaking instead of pursuing court action when an offence or civil penalty provision in the legislation has been, or is likely to be, breached. If we accept the undertaking, you are bound by the terms agreed to in the undertaking. Terms may include mandatory training of your staff and taking the steps needed to ensure compliance of any future advertising.

A breach of the terms may result in the matter being referred to the Federal Court who can make orders under section 42YL(5) of the Act.

If you are convicted by a court for advertising non-compliance (including failure to comply with a direction from the Secretary), penalties may be up to:

  • imprisonment for 5 years or 4,000 penalty units*, or both, where the use of the goods in reliance on the advertisement has resulted in, will result in, or is likely to result in, harm or injury to any person; or the use of the goods in reliance on the advertisement, if the goods were so used, would result in, or would be likely to result in, harm or injury to any person
  • imprisonment for 12 months or 1,000 penalty units*, or both, for intentional non-compliance
  • 100 penalty units* for strict liability offences (where intent does not need to be demonstrated)

Offences by corporations can also attract a 5x multiplier.

We may pursue multiple advertising offences. There is also provision for continuing offences (i.e. increased penalties for each day of non-compliance following notification of compliance issues).

If a court finds that you have failed to comply with the relevant advertising requirements or directions, it can impose civil penalties up to a maximum of:

  • 5,000 penalty units* for an individual; or
  • 50,000 penalty units* for a body corporate

for each contravention.

Activities that represent advertising

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Not all information released to the public about therapeutic goods is advertising. However, if information you release intends (from the end viewer's point of view) to directly or indirectly promote the use or supply of a therapeutic good then we would likely consider it to be advertising and it must meet legislative requirements as set out in Act and the Code (see Advertising and the Act).

Promotional activities and materials are considered advertising

We consider promotional material to be a form of advertising. Even if the material or the format of advertising can be said to promote the use or supply of relevant goods only in an indirect way, the material or format will still be an 'advertisement'.

Information that is purely factual and balanced and is disseminated for the appropriate use of the goods (for example, consumer medicine information, instructions for use) is unlikely to be considered promotional.

Characteristics of promotional material

Your information is more likely to be considered promotional if it contains:

  • unsolicited information rather than solicited information
  • unbalanced information (for example, it focuses on the positive qualities of a therapeutic good and omits or downplays the negative qualities such as possible side effects or limitations of use)
  • the use of superlatives[1], for example, describing a therapeutic good as 'the best' or 'works fastest'
  • the use of descriptive adjectives or statements that are emotive (for example, describing a therapeutic good as 'brilliant' or 'changed my life')
  • information that is disseminated on multiple occasions with regular or semi-regular frequency (for example, three times a week during the evening news)
  • any information that is disseminated by, or on behalf of, manufacturers, sponsors, retailers and any other party with a financial interest in the sale of the goods referenced.

Considerations when assessing communications

When deciding whether your information is an advertisement, we take into consideration the following factors:

  • the context in which the information or activity occurs
  • the audience the information is directed to, what their likely take-out message is and are they likely to consider it to be promotional
  • the use of non-verbal and unwritten messages (such as pictorial elements). These may be just as important in assessing the communication and can alter the take-out message that viewers receive.

Forms an advertisement may take

Any promotional activity for a therapeutic good is likely to fall under the definition of an advertisement.

Advertisements may be targeted to the masses (for example, a newspaper advertisement for cold relief products), to a specific patient group (for example, an advertisement for blood glucose meters in a magazine for diabetics) or specific individual consumers (for example, a letter to individuals that have bought certain types of products from a retailer in the last 12 months).

Advertising is not limited to a specific type, or types, of media. It can include articles published in journals, magazines and newspapers, displays on posters and notices, photographs, film, broadcast material, video recording, electronic transmissions and material posted on the internet. Point-of-sale materials, leaflets, booklets and other promotional materials that include specific product claims and which are supplied separately from the product may also be advertisements. Words forming part of a soundtrack or video recording are within the definition of to advertise as is the spoken word. Product reviews and even product trade names can constitute advertising.

Depending on the content and the context in which such material is provided to the public, some documents and content may be considered not to be advertisements.

For example:

  • reference material, factual informative statements or announcements, trade catalogues and price lists, provided that they do not make therapeutic or promotional claims
  • information relating to human health or diseases where there is no reference to therapeutic goods
  • advertising for health services that does not refer, either directly or indirectly, to therapeutic goods
  • correspondence, possibly accompanied by material of a non-promotional nature, to answer a specific unsolicited question about a therapeutic good.

(A fact sheet providing more information on the differences between advertising and other activities is currently under development.)

The Act and the Code apply to digital communications channels such as social networking sites, blogs and discussion forums when these are used to promote therapeutic goods. Even when these dissemination tools are not used with the conscious intent to promote therapeutic goods, if this is the likely effect of the material on the reasonable consumer, then the material would be subject to the Act and the Code. Website and social media managers should:

  • ensure that materials posted on the internet, including comments made by third parties, do not contravene the Act or the Code
  • remove content that contravenes the Act or Code.

The labelling and package leaflet of a product, even if they comply fully with the labelling requirements of the Act, the Regulations, the Devices Regulations and the Labelling Orders, may still be an advertisement. If a label is an advertisement, it needs to comply with the Code (other than those specific sections that have an exemption for labels). This is also the case for Consumer Medicine Information and Patient Information Leaflets (for medical devices).


Footnotes

  1. The use of superlatives indicates a comparison (whether express or implied).

Advertising therapeutic goods with related services

Guidance for advertisers

We are aware that a member of the public has asked a medical clinic to remove vaccination posters, implying that he is an officer of the TGA. Posters relating to vaccines sanctioned by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Immunisation Program are permitted by the therapeutic goods advertising requirements.

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Advertising health services

TGA does not regulate the advertising of health services. We do not consider advertisements solely for health services to be advertisements for therapeutic goods.

To ensure that your advertisement for a health service isn't also considered an advertisement for therapeutic goods, do not refer (either directly or indirectly) to any therapeutic goods used in the delivery of the service in the advertisement.

This may be difficult for services that inherently involve therapeutic goods, for example, imaging or vaccination services. Such advertisements will need to comply with the legislative requirements for advertising therapeutic goods as well as any requirements governing the advertising of services.

Requirements when advertising health services

You should be aware that there are requirements that apply when advertising health services, such as:

Advertising extemporaneously compounded medicines

Advertisements for extemporaneously compounded medicines must comply with the Act and other relevant laws, including the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (and applicable advertising and dispensing guidelines), the Australian Consumer Law, and State and Territory Laws. Extemporaneously compounded medicines, although exempt from some parts of the Act, are not exempt from the advertising provisions of the Act.

Generally, it is unlawful to publish or broadcast an advertisement to consumers for an extemporaneously compounded medicine, that refers to a substance (any ingredient of a medicine) or a good containing a substance classified in the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (the Poisons Standard) as a pharmacist only medicine (Schedule 3), prescription only medicine (Schedule 4) or controlled drug (Schedule 8) (some exceptions apply).

Applying advertising provisions to extemporaneously compounded medicines

Both a medicine and an ingredient used in the manufacture of a medicine is a therapeutic good.

The advertising requirements in Part 5-1 of the Act apply to advertisements that are:

  • directed to the general public; and
  • for therapeutic goods, even where an advertisement also promotes other goods or services that are not therapeutic goods.

The advertising provisions in Part 5-1 of the Act do not apply to advertisements:

  • for services, for example an advertisement that only promotes the service of extemporaneously compounding medicines, that do not promote or impliedly promote any therapeutic goods
  • that are directed exclusively to health professionals (however, not all health practitioners are included in this exemption).

Advertisements for extemporaneously compounded medicines must not refer to any medicine that contains a restricted scheduled substance, even where:

  • the restricted scheduled substance is one of several ingredients, including substances that are not restricted scheduled substances; or
  • the advertisement does not refer to the restricted scheduled substance by name.

There is an exception, to the offence of advertising a medicine that contains a restricted scheduled substance, for those Schedule 3 substances listed in Appendix H to the current Poisons Standard. Please note that there are certain exemptions from the scheduling requirements which may also apply.

Advertisements referring to serious diseases and conditions need TGA authorisation

It is an offence to advertise therapeutic goods to the public with references to serious forms of diseases, conditions, ailments or defects without prior authorisation from the TGA. These references are prohibited or restricted representations.

Advertising vaccination services and vaccines

All vaccines for human use are classified as prescription-only medicines (Schedule 4) in the Poisons Standard. You cannot advertise prescription-only medicines to consumers. The only exception to this prohibition is advertising that has been authorised or required by a government or government authority within Australia (subsection 42DL(10) of the Act).

This means that a clinic displaying an advertisement in the form of a National Immunisation Program poster produced by the Australian Government (the Advertisement) that promotes particular vaccines and vaccination would not breach the prohibition.

Advertisers who display such an advertisement must ensure that:

  • the Advertisement has been genuinely issued by either the Australian Government or a government of an Australian state or territory
  • the Advertisement itself has not been altered in any way, unless expressly provided for in the Advertisement (e.g. where a space has been included for the express purpose of allowing clinics to add dates and times for vaccine availability)
  • the take-out message of the Advertisement is not altered in any way, including through the use of additional promotional messages proximate to the Advertisement

For example:

  • A health provider displays in their clinic an Australian Government health campaign poster about the influenza vaccine. No additional promotional messages or information was included near the poster and the poster itself is unaltered. While the poster is advertising prescription-only medicines, the advertisement itself is not in contravention of the Act.
  • A health provider displays in their clinic an Australian Government health campaign poster about the influenza vaccine but added a note below the poster stating 'we only use [brand x] vaccines'. This additional information is promotional and would be interpreted in the context of the poster above it. As a whole, the poster and additional information would be in contravention of the Act.

Public health campaigns relating to vaccination, in addition to referring to prescription-only vaccines, invariably use representations which refer to serious forms of diseases (i.e. vaccine preventable diseases). Such representations are 'restricted representations' which must not be used in advertisements for therapeutic goods prior to approval or permission from the TGA. The TGA has given permission for advertisements that are government public health campaigns, to contain 'restricted representations'.

Advertising vaccination services

We do not regulate the advertising of health services but if your advertisement for a vaccination service also promotes the use of a therapeutic good it is considered an advertisement for a therapeutic good which, outside of the context described above, would be likely to contravene the Act.

What to avoid when advertising vaccination services

When advertising vaccination services, avoid using:

  • information that might enable consumers to identify the particular vaccine or the manufacturer of the vaccine provided with the service
  • statements or representations that harmful effects will occur from not receiving the vaccine
  • references to any misleading therapeutic benefit of a vaccine (for example, a use that is not a TGA-approved indication for the vaccine)
  • an indication that the vaccine administered as part of the service is superior to other vaccines
  • portrayals of the vaccine or service in a way that trivialises or conflicts with public health policies, or misleads consumers in any other way
  • price comparisons
  • incentives to encourage the consumer to obtain the service or vaccine, or
  • any other claim that promotes the use or supply of the vaccine

Use of any of the above makes advertising of your service to be more likely considered advertising of the vaccine itself and subject to therapeutic goods legislation.

What to include when advertising vaccination services

We recommend that advertisements for seasonal influenza vaccination services should inform the public:

High risk groups eligible for free influenza vaccines

High risk groups that are eligible for free influenza vaccines include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 0 to 5 years
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are aged 10 years and over
  • pregnant women
  • people aged six months and over with medical conditions such as severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes that can lead to complications from influenza
  • people aged 65 years and over.

Advertising cosmetic services and injections

Advertising cosmetic services containing Schedule 4 substances

You cannot publish an advertisement to the public about therapeutic goods that contains a statement referring to goods, or substances or preparations containing goods, included in Schedules 3, 4 or 8 of the Poisons Standard (section 42DL(1)(f) of the Act).

The products listed below (and most cosmetic injections) contain substances that are in Schedule 4 of the current Poisons Standard and are therefore regulated as Prescription Only Medicines:

  • Anti-wrinkle injections
  • Dermal Fillers
  • Improvement of the appearance of submental fat

Cosmetic injections are generally administered to temporarily remove/reduce wrinkles and lines on the face, around the eyes, forehead (anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers), lips and neck (dermal fillers only) or to improve the appearance of submental fat (deoxycholic acid).

We consider prescription medicines to be high risk products and the patient should be assessed by a medical professional before their use. Health professionals and cosmetic or beauty clinics are not permitted to advertise cosmetic injections (such as those above) to the public.

Some cosmetic injections may be compounded by a pharmacy for an individual patient rather than supplied by a manufacturer as a finished product. The advertising of compounded cosmetic injections that contain prescription-only substances to the public is also prohibited. For more information, see Advertising extemporaneously compounded medicines.

Advertising cosmetic injections compliantly

To continue legally promoting your cosmetic service to the public, there are some acceptable general terms that you can use to describe certain cosmetic injections in advertisements.

You cannot make any reference in your advertisement to:

  • individual Schedule 4 substances or ingredients
  • therapeutic goods containing Schedule 4 substances or ingredients (most injections for cosmetic use).

This includes abbreviations of either the ingredient or trade names.

Acceptable general terms

You may use the following acceptable general terms and phrases in your advertising (noting a therapeutic good must not be advertised for an indication or intended purpose that is not accepted in relation to the inclusion of the good on the ARTG):

  • cosmetic injections (anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers and submental fat)
  • anti-wrinkle injections/treatments (anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers)
  • wrinkle injections/treatments (anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers)
  • injections/treatments for lips (dermal fillers)
  • injections/treatments for fine lines/folds/age lines (anti-wrinkle injections and dermal fillers)
  • wrinkle and lip enhancement/fulfilment/augmentation (dermal fillers)
  • injections to enhance pouting of the lips (dermal fillers)
  • injections which reduce the depth of fine lines/wrinkles around the face/lips (dermal fillers)
  • injections to improve the appearance of chin/neck/jaw line (dermal fillers)
  • injections for improving the appearance of submental fat/fullness under the chin. (submental fat)

You may also use other words and phrases with similar meaning, provided that they do not refer to specific products or ingredient names. It is not acceptable to use acronyms, nicknames, abbreviations or hashtags of the medicine's name (or some part thereof), which may be taken by a consumer to be a 'reference' to a specific medicine or substance.

You may also have obligations under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and state and territory fair trading/consumer affairs legislation.

Advertising specific types of therapeutic goods

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

We are currently developing this guidance.

Advertising interface products

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

We recognise that there can be a regulatory 'interface', or potential overlap, between certain foods, medicines, devices, cosmetics and consumer goods. Products at this interface may seem very similar, but can be regulated differently.

We describe examples of three such interfaces below:

  1. Food medicine interface
  2. Cosmetic medicine interface
  3. Consumer goods medicine interface

Food medicine interface

Sometimes it isn't clear whether a product for oral consumption is a therapeutic good or a food. The potential overlap between certain foods and medicines is referred to as the food-medicine interface.

Generally, if your product is covered by a food standard, or is traditionally used as a food in the form that it is presented, it is regulated as a food. If your product is not a food, it is likely to be considered a therapeutic good.

TGA has developed a Food-Medicine Interface Guidance Tool (FMIGT) in consultation with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) and Australian state and territory agencies. This tool helps you determine how your product is regulated. Use this guidance and the FMIGT to determine whether your product is a food or a therapeutic good.

Making therapeutic claims, statements or indications for a product that you intend to market as a food, might lead a consumer to think the product is for therapeutic use. This could result in your product being regulated as a therapeutic good.

Probiotics and advertising

A probiotic is a product containing live bacteria that is taken orally to restore the body's beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are presented as ready-to-eat yoghurt or milk products, in powders for mixing in food and drink, or in gelatine capsules. Probiotics are often positioned at the food-medicine interface.

Probiotics that are regulated as foods

Probiotic products that are clearly covered by a food standard, or that are traditionally used as foods in Australia or New Zealand in the form they are presented in, are regulated as foods.

For example, yoghurt and yoghurt drinks are covered by Food Standard 2.5.3 for fermented milk products. Accompanying general level health claims for such products would be limited to lactose digestion covered by the nutrition, health and related claims set out in Food Standard 1.2.7. High level health claims need to be separately approved by FSANZ.

A probiotic that is not covered by a food standard or that is not traditionally used as a food in Australia or New Zealand, however, is not automatically considered a therapeutic good.

Probiotics that are regulated as therapeutic goods

If the product is accompanied by a therapeutic claim, statement or instructions for use, it may meet the definition of a therapeutic good because:

  • by making such claims, you are representing it as a therapeutic good
  • it is perceived by a consumer to be for therapeutic use, even if you intend to market the product as food.

For example, a sachet of probiotic powder might be marketed as a food but other factors such as claims about its health benefits, warning statements or a dosage regime may lead consumers to believe it is a therapeutic good.

If you decide to market your product as a therapeutic good, it will be regulated as one. If the product is manufactured overseas, we must approve your products manufacturing before it can be imported and released for supply in Australia.

These kinds of products are often regulated as complementary medicines and listed on the ARTG. If you have suitable supporting evidence, listed therapeutic goods can make low-level therapeutic claims on the product label and in your advertising, in line with the Code.

If you would like your probiotic product to be regulated as a food rather than a therapeutic good, consider how you market and present it to consumers.

Further information

Contact a regulatory affairs consultant or your state or territory food authority for further information, or see the following useful links:

Cosmetic medicine interface

Most cosmetic products are generally not considered therapeutic goods, as they tend not to be for a therapeutic use and we do not regulate them. However, a cosmetic may be a therapeutic good, depending on its ingredients, route of administration and if therapeutic claims are made on the product label or in advertising. Products for topical use (including for use on teeth or the oral mucosa) may be regulated as a cosmetic or a therapeutic good depending on the type of product and the claims made.

Generally, a product for topical use that is covered by the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Determination 2018 (the Determination) will be regulated as a cosmetic. The Determination, which was made under section 7AA of the Act, declares a number of products not to be therapeutic goods provided those goods (to the extent that they are therapeutic goods) are exported, imported or supplied in a manner that is consistent with the terms of their exclusion under the Determination, or advertised or presented for supply in a particular way. Additionally, the Therapeutic Goods (Declared Goods) Order 2019 made under section 7 of the Act declares that products labelled or promoted for cosmetic purposes when promoted for oral consumption are, for the purposes of the Act, therapeutic goods.

The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) regulates the ingredients in cosmetic products under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989. Further information on the regulation of cosmetic ingredients is available from NICNAS.

Claims on cosmetic labels are regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Consumer goods medicine interface

We are currently developing this guidance.

Handling of advertising complaints

Guidance for advertisers

The TGA's framework for handling complaints about the advertising of therapeutic goods is currently under review. Updated information about the framework will be published once the amended framework is complete.

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Effective handling of complaints enables advertisers of therapeutic goods to comply with legislative requirements, be socially responsible and assist in delivering good health outcomes. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the body responsible for handling complaints about the advertising of therapeutic goods to the public under the therapeutic goods legislation.

Lodging a complaint

Anyone may lodge a complaint about an advertisement for therapeutic goods. All complaints are treated in confidence unless the complainant consents to the release of their personal details. We also accept anonymous complaints.

To lodge a complaint about an advertisement, please use our online advertising complaint form.

If you require support to complete this form, please call 02 6232 8757.

When a complaint is lodged, the following details should be included where possible:

  • the name of the advertiser
  • a copy of the advertisement
  • where and when you saw or heard the advertisement (e.g. the name of the publication and the date it was published)
  • details of what it is about the advertisement that the complainant finds unacceptable

See commonly recorded breaches of the Act and the Code as a guide.

You can find more information about how we may use personal information received in a complaint on the Privacy page of the TGA website.

Education sessions

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Please see our dedicated Advertising therapeutic goods section of the TGA website for details on upcoming webinars and roadshows to assist you in understanding your advertising responsibilities and being compliant with current legislation.

If you are new to therapeutic goods regulation and wish to advertise your product in Australia, you may also benefit from attending our training on advertising and making claims for therapeutic goods.

Version history

Guidance for advertisers

This guidance is based on the advertising requirements in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), including the advertising changes that came into effect on 6 March 2018. It has been further updated to provide specific information on advertising biologicals and to also include more background information on advertising requirements.

Advertising to the public must also comply with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. The current version, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, came into effect on 1 January 2019. To assist advertisers, we have also published guidance material on the Code: Complying with the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018.

Version history
Version Description of change Author Effective date
V1.0 Original publication Advertising compliance section and Regulatory guidance team June 2018
V2.0

Additional information about:

  • the advertising regulatory framework
  • advertising different types of therapeutic goods
  • restricted representations
  • activities that represent advertising

Some minor editorial changes have also been made

Advertising compliance section and Regulatory guidance team July 2018
V2.1 Minor editorial changes to reflect the making of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018 (the Code) and the inclusion of the Pricing Information Code of Practice at Schedule 4 of the Code from 1 January 2019. Advertising Education and Assurance Section November 2018
V2.2 Updated Advertising vaccination services and vaccines Advertising Education and Assurance Section November 2019
V2.3 Changes to the information about advertising pre-approvals Advertising Education and Assurance Section November 2019
V2.4 Updated Cosmetic medicine interface Advertising Education and Assurance Section December 2019
V2.5 Changes to reflect the requirement for advertising pre-approval in specified media ending on 30 June 2020 Advertising Education and Assurance Section July 2020
V2.6 Initial changes for complaints handling process improvements Advertising Education and Assurance Section August 2020
V2.7 Changes to restricted representation guidance, including reference to approval checklist Advertising Education and Assurance Section October 2020