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TGA issues warning about illegal advertising relating to COVID-19

24 March 2020

Warning to consumers

As a consumer, it is important to be aware of false and misleading advertising. Unfortunately, some people are taking advantage of the current situation by advertising products that claim to prevent or cure COVID-19.

Claims being made include unregistered products that 'kill COVID-19', complementary medicines that prevent the virus, and a medical device that treats a number of serious diseases including COVID-19, HIV AIDs and cancer.

In Australia, the advertising of therapeutic goods is regulated by the TGA and must meet certain requirements.

If you are suspicious of the claims being made about a product, including those advertised as preventing or curing COVID-19, you can provide information to us via the online advertising complaint form.

Warning to advertisers

The TGA will take action in relation to the illegal advertising of therapeutic products. Advertisers are reminded that:

  • products which are represented to be for therapeutic use are regulated as therapeutic goods (with a few limited exceptions)
  • therapeutic goods must be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, unless they are subject to an exemption, approval or authority under therapeutic goods legislation
  • criminal offence and civil penalty provisions apply to illegal advertising of therapeutic goods
  • the TGA is monitoring non-compliance, particularly in relation to the advertising of products that claim to prevent or cure COVID-19 and will take action in relation to any advertisements that do not meet the requirements, including those that seek to mislead consumers
  • this is in line with the previous warning about advertising and the novel coronavirus.

Consequences of breaking the law

The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 provides for a range of criminal offences, some of which are punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment and attract fines of up to $840,000 for an individual or $4.2 million for a body corporate. Further, the legislation provides for civil penalties involving a penalty amount of up to $1.05 million for an individual or $10.5 million for a body corporate. In a civil penalty case brought by the TGA (Secretary, Department of Health v Peptide Clinics Australia Pty Ltd [2019] FCA 1107) the Federal Court of Australia awarded $10 million in civil penalties in relation to contraventions of the advertising provisions under the Act.

About the TGA

The TGA is part of the Australian Government Department of Health and is responsible for regulating the advertising of therapeutic goods by administrating the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990 and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018.