Press release

Inaccurate TV advertising just one of the complaints upheld by the medicines regulator last year

MHRA has published the 9th edition of the advertising report Delivering High Standards in Medicines Advertising.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)’s 9th edition of the latest advertising report, Delivering high standards in medicines advertising, published today shows a decrease in complaints received last year. In 2014, 193 complaints were received, down from 283 the previous year.

However the latest edition of this annual advertising report illustrates some serious breaches in regulations. These include:

  • Johnson & Johnson complained to MHRA about a TV advertisement produced by Omega Pharma for Bronchostop, a traditional herbal medicine licensed on the basis of evidence of traditional usage wrongly suggesting that the efficacy of the herbal had been demonstrated

  • a meeting for healthcare professionals where medicines were promoted and attendees expected to make a ‘minimum’ purchase - this was not in line with the law which maintains that people may not supply or promise any gift or benefit unless it is inexpensive and relevant to the practice of medicine or pharmacy

These complaints, along with all the cases last year, were resolved through voluntary agreements, with companies either correcting or removing their adverts without the need for further regulatory action. We have a long heritage of effective self-regulation in the UK and the statutory role of MHRA underpins the important work of the industry bodies, the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority and the Proprietary Association of Great Britain.

Beryl Keeley, head of MHRA’s advertising standards unit said:

People have the right to know that the advertisements they see are accurate and do not contain any information that could be misleading and that is why we and the self-regulatory bodies take the action that we do.

In the coming year, we expect to vet advertising for around 50 products to promote a ‘right first time’ approach and protect against misleading messages in advertising.

Background

  1. See the report Delivering High Standards in Medicines Advertising Regulation and the PAGB and PMCPA websites.

  2. MHRA is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK by ensuring they work and are acceptably safe. Underpinning all our work lies robust and fact-based judgements to ensure that the benefits justify any risks. MHRA is a centre of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency which also includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). MHRA is an executive agency of the Department of Health.

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Published 24 February 2015