Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Erectile dysfunction and erectile problems are conditions for which suitably qualified medical supervision should be sought. Therefore, marketers should not make claims, implied or explicit, that they can diagnose or treat erectile dysfunction unless they are a suitably qualified health professional.
In 2012, the ASA upheld complaints about a direct mailing for a blue pill which stated “Defeat: Erectile Dysfunction, Premature Ejaculation & Low Testosterone Once And For All! Maximize Pleasure, Libido, Arousal & Release ... Enjoy All Night Sex!” It considered that the ad was likely to discourage essential medical treatment and made medicinal claims for an unlicensed product and therefore breached rules 12.2 and 12.11 (Wyldfire Ltd, 10 October 2012).
Similarly, in 2011, the ASA ruled that an ad for a range of food supplements breached the Code. The ad made claims including “Ginkgo biloba provides unique antioxidants that help to improve blood flow to the brain ... It may also offer some benefit for men with erectile dysfunction". In the absence of a valid marketing authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the ASA considered the marketers had made a medicinal claim for an unlicensed product. It also considered the claims were likely to discourage essential medical treatment and concluded the ad was in breach of the Code (Healthspan Ltd, 19 January 2011).
Marketers wishing to make claims that a device could stimulate erections should also be wary. In 2009 the ASA ruled that medicinal claims made for a vacuum pump were misleading. The ad stated “... The penis should increase its capacity for blood flow helping to enhance potency, resulting in a stronger, larger erection. Supplied complete with an exercise programme, it's also a useful aid for erection problems ... Erection problems also respond well". Again, the ASA considered the claims would be interpreted as offering treatment for a medical condition and ruled the claims must not appear again (Easylife Group Ltd, 30 September 2009).
Viagra is a prescription-only medicine (POM) used for the treatment of sexual dysfunction and as such may not be advertised to the public (Rule 12.12).
See also ‘Viagra’ and ‘Medicines: Prescription-only and disease awareness marketing’.