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Sydney man fined $10,656 for alleged unlawful advertising including a reference to Coronavirus

19 November 2020

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), part of the Department of Health, has issued four infringement notices totalling $10,656 to a man from Sydney for the alleged unlawful advertising of hydrogen peroxide and Condy's crystals (potassium permanganate).

The man allegedly advertised, on his eBay store, medicines containing hydrogen peroxide for internal therapeutic use and Condy's crystals (potassium permanganate). Neither medicine, at the time of advertising, were included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Unless a specific exemption, approval or authority applies, therapeutic goods must be entered in the ARTG before they can be lawfully advertised to the general public in Australia.

It is alleged that the man also referred to a prohibited representation, on his eBay store, in relation to hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for cancer. The Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code specifies that representations relating to the treatment, cure, prevention or diagnosis (including screening) of neoplastic diseases, including all types of cancer, are prohibited representations.

The man also allegedly promoted hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for coronavirus. Under the Act, any claims or references to treating COVID-19 (and related terms) are restricted representations. The use of prohibited or restricted representations in advertisements for therapeutic goods is unlawful without the prior authorisation of the TGA.

The TGA has informed the man that the alleged advertising, on his eBay store, must be immediately removed.

Hydrogen peroxide is a substance used to bleach human hair and sometimes for topical first aid or dental purposes. The TGA is not aware of any accepted clinical or scientific evidence to substantiate therapeutic claims in relation to the ingestion of hydrogen peroxide. The TGA is particularly concerned about the potential for serious harm from internal administration.

Advertising of this nature is 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's highest priority is to protect the health and safety of the Australian public through regulation of therapeutic goods.

The TGA takes action against breaches of the Act

The regulatory scheme is critical 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 may include criminal or civil court proceedings, which can result in substantial penalties, fines or imprisonment.

Any person, including businesses, advertising therapeutic goods to consumers must comply with the requirements for advertising. The TGA encourages people to report suspected non-compliant advertising via its advertising reporting form.

The TGA website includes tips for consumers about how to spot a dodgy health product ad.