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Doctor fined $37,800 for alleged advertising breaches including references to COVID-19

21 May 2020

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has issued fifteen infringement notices totalling $37,800 to a doctor in Perth, including alleged unlawful advertising of therapeutic goods in relation to COVID-19.

The advertisements published on the doctor's website in May 2020 referred to therapeutic goods not included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Unless a specific exemption, approval or authority applies, therapeutic goods must be entered on the ARTG before they can be lawfully supplied or advertised in Australia.

The advertisements included therapeutic claims in relation to COVID-19 for a variety of products. Any claims or references to COVID-19 (and related terms) are restricted representations under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act). A restricted representation refers to a serious disease, condition or disorder. The use of restricted representations in advertisements for therapeutic goods is unlawful without the permission of the TGA.

It is also a breach of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No. 2) 2018 to include an endorsement of a therapeutic good from a health professional in an advertisement.

These advertisements are of significant concern to the TGA given the current pandemic. The TGA has published a warning to advertisers and consumers about illegal advertising relating to COVID-19.

The TGA takes action against advertising breaches

The regulatory scheme is important to the safety of Australian consumers and the TGA investigates suspected illegal activity in relation to therapeutic goods. A range of compliance and enforcement tools are available and where necessary, this may include criminal or civil court proceedings, which can result in substantial penalties, fines or imprisonment.

Any person, including businesses, must comply with the requirements for advertising. The TGA encourages online advertising complaints to prevent potentially serious consequences.

The TGA is also reminding consumers to be on the lookout for misleading ads in its how to spot a dodgy health product ad campaign.