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Therapeutic Goods Advertising Consultative Committee, 17 October 2019

Communique

13 November 2019

The fourth meeting of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Consultative Committee (TGACC) was held in Canberra on 17 October 2019. TGACC members represent a diverse range of stakeholders with an interest in the advertising of therapeutic goods, including consumer, industry and health professional bodies.

The TGA provided an overview of activities undertaken since the meeting held on 13 June 2019 including; work on improving granularity of complaints data against Key Performance Indicators, minor amendments to the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018 (the Code), as well as work to finalise guidance documents on the advertising requirements specifically for providers of medicinal cannabis products, human cell and tissue products and disease education activities.

Discussion was held in the meeting, and some concern expressed, around the Code provisions that apply to testimonials and endorsements (including the role of social media influencers) and samples. The TGA committed to improving guidance on testimonials in particular.

The TGA provided the committee with advice on expected changes to the arrangements for pre-approvals of certain advertisements to occur in November 2019. Members discussed the importance of a clear communications plan to assist advertisers.

The TGACC examined the draft inaugural Therapeutic Goods Advertising Compliance 2018-19 Annual Report (the Report). The Report provides an analysis of industry compliance over the 2018-19 year. Member discussion focused on the volume of complaints received by the TGA about the advertising of therapeutic goods, along with the timeliness challenges in handling advertising complaints as investigations when enforcement action is a potential outcome. The effectiveness of including case studies in the Report for educating advertisers was also discussed and supported.

The CHOICE representative presented their assessment of the first 12 months of the new advertising system. The presentation highlighted the large volume of complaints, complaint categorisation, compliance actions, the TGA's application of regulatory powers and educational tools, and risks to public health and safety posed by non-compliant advertising.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) representative provided a presentation covering the ACCC's prioritisation model and the factors used to inform those priorities. The ACCC model includes recording and analysis of complaints to determine focus areas, rather than a complaints handling model. Time based KPIs are not utilised. Member discussion focussed on the ACCC priority areas and methods for engaging rural and indigenous consumers.

The TGACC workshopped a number of case studies on social media advertising, including the use of 'influencers' and 'brand ambassadors', and their likely impacts on consumers. Member discussion highlighted the complexity of digital media and the need for clear guidance.

The TGA provided an overview of new education and guidance tools published to support advertisers, including a Continuing Professional Development accredited e-learning module for pharmacists, a decision tree to assist advertisers to meet Code requirements for mandatory information, a flyer and blog post on natural claims and the newly created Compliance and Enforcement Hub. Members also received a presentation from the TGA on the development of educational resources into the future and discussion centred on the requirement for effective, digestible materials suitable for different stakeholder groups. The group supported greater use of digital content with less requirement for printable fact sheets into the future.

The next meeting of the committee will be held in February 2020.