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.


What is the menopause?
Can marketers claim that their medicine can treat the symptoms of the menopause?
What about Complementary and Alternative Therapies?
Can marketers claim that their food supplement can treat the symptoms of the menopause?
What about a product names?

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural change in a woman’s life and happens when ovaries stop producing eggs. Ovaries also make the hormone oestrogen (a chemical substance) so when they stop working; there is a drop in the blood level of this hormone.

As well as some emotional effects, symptoms of the menopause can include irregular periods, hot flushes and night sweats, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), changes in your mood (e.g. feeling irritable, depressed or anxious), vaginal symptoms (e.g. dryness and pain during sex), reduced libido and urinary problems.

Can marketers claim that their medicine can treat the symptoms of the menopause?

Medicines must have a licence from the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before they are marketed.

Claims to treat the symptoms of the menopause are likely to be medicinal in nature and marketers should therefore check with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before marketing to establish whether the product is likely to need to be licenced as a medicine, or if it is eligible to be registered under the Traditional Herbal Medicine scheme. If an appropriate licence has been obtained, marketing communications for that medicine must conform to the licence and the product’s summary of product characteristics (SPC).

Marketers would not only break rule 12.11 if they made medicinal claims for unauthorised products but also risk breaching rule 12.2, which states that marketers should not discourage essential treatment.

In 2013 the ASA upheld a complaint about a product that claimed to relieve the symptoms of the menopause. The ASA understood that the ad made medicinal claims for a product which did not have a licence from the MHRA and ruled that the ad should not appear again (USA Direct Ltd t/a Amberen, 13 March 2013).

Prescription only medicines and prescription-only medical treatments may not be advertised to the public (See ‘Healthcare: Prescription-only medicine’).

What about Complementary and Alternative Therapies?

Whilst the menopause itself is obviously not a medical condition, the ASA is likely to consider the symptoms of the menopause to be conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. Claims to treat those symptoms are likely to discourage essential treatment, unless that treatment is carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional

Therefore, treatment claims for menopausal symptoms should only relate to therapies which are carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional (Happy Homeopathy, 11 June 2014).

Can marketers claim that their food supplement can treat the symptoms of the menopause?

Food supplements, such as vitamins or minerals, which are offered as nutritional support for women during the menopause are subject to the Food rules in Section 15. Only health claims listed as authorised in the EU Register, or claims that would have the same meaning to the consumer, may be used in marketing communications and claims that a food prevents, treats or cures human disease are not permitted (See ‘Food: Health claims’).

In 2017 the ASA upheld a complaint an ad for a food supplement which made claims to alleviate the symptoms of the menopause. The ASA ruled that the marketer not to make health clams unless they were authorised, or properly reflected ‘on hold’ claims that could also be substantiated (PharmaCare (Europe Ltd) 27 January 2016).

What about a product names?

Marketers should bear in mind that they can fall foul of the Code (and the law) if their product’s name implies an unproven efficacy or makes a medicinal claim. While CAP does not give legal advice, the MHRA have considered the name “Hot Flashex” to be an implied medicinal claim that the product could treat one of the adverse symptoms associated with the menopause.

Updated 9 December 2016

See ‘Food: Health claims’, 'Healthcare: Prescription-only medicine', ‘Magnetic devices and therapies' and ‘Claims in product names’.

 


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