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General advertising requirements

13 September 2021

Some fundamental requirements apply to advertising all types of therapeutic goods.

Included in the ARTG, not TGA approved

It's acceptable to state that your product is included in the ARTG and or provide the listed or registered number, however you cannot imply that it's approved or endorsed by the TGA or any government authority.

You are not permitted to refer to the TGA, use a government logo, or imply that any government body, including those in other countries, endorses a therapeutic good in any advertisement to the public.

For details refer to Section 16 of the Code.

Note that assessed-listed medicines and registered complementary medicines which have been assessed for efficacy by the TGA are eligible to use the 'TGA assessed' claim on their medicine label and other advertising material.

Accurate, truthful, not misleading

Any claims made in advertising must be valid, accurate, and substantiated. The information must be truthful, balanced and not misleading.

Any claim that could prompt a consumer's error of judgement and about the use of therapeutic goods could be misleading, either by omission or ambiguity of important information.

An example is making claims around the 'natural' properties of a product. Without sufficient explanation for these claims, the meaning of 'natural' is open to interpretation and may result in consumers being misled. Find out more about promoting your product as natural.

Claims do not necessarily have to be inaccurate to be misleading, depending on the context in which the claims are made. If you suspect that the placement of your advertisement could impact its compliance, we recommend checking with the publisher or media agency.

So before you advertise, consider the:

  • Context in which your message is presented
  • Intended audience for your message and how it could be perceived
  • Use of visual and other non-verbal cues.

For details refer to Section 9 of the Code.

Product comparisons

Comparisons of products should be factual, fair and capable of substantiation.

An advertisement which compares the advertised product with others must not suggest that those goods are harmful or ineffectual, either directly or by implication. Broad comparisons like 'higher strength' or 'better absorbed' should not be used unless it is clear to the audience which products are being compared.

The use of superlatives suggests a comparison to all other products, for example, by describing a therapeutic good as 'the best' or 'works fastest'.

For details refer to Section 9 of the Code.

Consistent with the ARTG entry

Advertising needs to be consistent with the information included in the ARTG entry for the advertised therapeutic goods. Where the goods are exempt from inclusion in the ARTG, the advertising must be consistent with the labelling or packaging.

The need for consistency applies to all aspects of the full ARTG entry, including the:

  • Product name or description of the goods
  • Dosage form or, in the case of medical devices, the GMDN code
  • Formulation of the goods
  • Intended purpose
  • Conditions applied to the ARTG entry
  • Required warnings or contraindications.

While therapeutic claims made in an advertisement need to be consistent with the indication or the intended purpose of the therapeutic good, they do not need to replicate it exactly. Qualifying or clarifying information attached to the therapeutic claim can be used if it is substantiated by robust evidence.

For details refer to Section 9 of the Code.

Safe and proper use

Advertising must support the safe and proper use of therapeutic goods. The way a product is presented needs to be consistent the directions or instructions for use, not exaggerate its efficacy or performance or suggest inappropriate or excessive use.

Claiming products are 'safe' or have 'no side effects' could heavily influence consumer choices, could be misleading or result in inappropriate use. These claims are specifically prohibited, even for specific patient populations or particular dosages and even if you think there is evidence to substantiate such a claim.

Your ad must not suggest consumers defer seeking medical attention or using treatment prescribed by a medical practitioner in favour of using the advertised product. It must also not encourage consumers to use the goods inappropriately or excessively for the intended purpose.

Further, it must not suggest a product is effective in all cases, offer any certain benefit from using it or imply a negative outcome if the product is not used.

For details refer to Section 10 of the Code.

Scientific or clinical representations

Scientific or clinical terminology must be clearly explained, easily understood by consumers and consistent with the broader body of evidence relating to the product. Using scientific claims can give credibility to representations, so it is important that studies are used correctly.

References to scientific or clinical studies must be accompanied by sufficient information for consumers to locate or request details to access the study. If your business does not make the study or data available on request, your advertising would be considered misleading.

Find out more about using scientific or clinical claims.

For details refer to Section 15 of the Code.

Endorsements

An endorsement is an indication of support for a product or brand, but without reference to the results of using it. Endorsements can be made by individuals or on behalf of a company.

In advertising therapeutic goods, endorsements cannot be made by:

  • Health professionals, health practitioners or medical researchers
  • Government authorities, hospitals or healthcare facilities
  • Any employees of government authorities, hospitals or healthcare facilities.

However, if the ad names the company, discloses the nature or type of commercial agreement involved with the endorsement and states whether the company or any individual received any financial or other in-kind benefit, endorsements may be made by:

  • Companies representing the interests of healthcare consumers, health practitioners, health professionals or medical researchers
  • Companies conducting funding research into any disease condition, ailment or defect
  • Employees or contractors for these companies, excluding health professionals, health practitioners, medical researchers and employees of government authorities, hospitals or healthcare facilities.

For details refer to Section 16 of the Code.

Testimonials

A testimonial is an endorsement from someone who has used a product, with information about the results of using it. They can only be made by individuals, not by companies.

In advertising therapeutic goods, testimonials cannot be made by:

  • Individuals involved with the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods
  • Employees or officers of a corporation that are involved with the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods
  • Employees or contractors of a government agency, hospital or healthcare facility, health practitioners, health professionals, or medical researchers.

Disclosures about the testimonial are required where:

  • The person providing the testimonial has received, or will receive any monetary payment or in-kind compensation for providing the testimonial
  • An actor or other person takes the place of the person who provided the testimonial
  • The person providing the testimonial is an immediate family member of an individual involved in the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods.

For details refer to Section 17 of the Code.

Advertising lawfully to children

Ads for therapeutic goods must never be directed to children under the age of 12 years.

You may only promote selected products to children aged 12 and over. These are tampons, acne preparations, sunscreens with SPF 15+, condoms and personal lubricants, bandages and dressings, cold sore preparations, lip balm, unscheduled anti-dandruff preparations and Class 1 medical devices for the management of chronic conditions under medical supervision.

For details refer to Section 19 of the Code.

Sample offers

The only therapeutic goods that advertisers are able to offer as samples are condoms, sunscreens and self-managed stoma or continence catheter devices.

You are not permitted to promote or distribute samples of any other therapeutic goods.

For details refer to Section 20 of the Code.

Public health priorities

You also need to be aware of any public health campaigns and ensure any ads you're planning are not inconsistent with these important health and safety messages. Government priorities in public health messaging change depending on needs within the community and developments in health policy, while others remain constant.

For example, advertising for products which claim to prevent or cure hangovers are inconsistent with public health priorities as they potentially encourage consumers to disregard health advice about the damaging impacts of alcohol.

Other therapeutic goods related to ongoing public health campaigns include:

  • Sunscreens
  • Cough and cold products
  • Smoking cessation
  • Vaccination and immunisation.

For details refer to Section 21 of the Code.